Day 166 With Dora- A Two Way Bond

Last night, I ran out to the store quickly to get some last minute items for a surprise house guest. I left The Flutenist with Dora and our guest and set out to the store. Success! Got the stuff! A few hurdles along the way, but I cleared them fine! Hurray!

I got home and found out that Dora had not been herself while I was gone. She was sad and listless. “She kind of wandered around,” they said. After I returned, she stayed right with me, often laying her head on my lap or snuggling close, for almost an hour.

She’s been doing this when I leave her inside for 45 minutes to mow our grass. (Dog + lawnmower = trouble, I think. 🤔) I finish up and come in and then she naps on my leg for more than 30 minutes. If I get up, she looks at me carefully to be sure I’m not leaving again. I just thought it was separation anxiety; she is a rescued dog, after all. But now?

It looks like affection to me. Given a choice, Dora would rather be with me than on her own. Me- the person who was a toxin passively killing those around her. Me- whose death would not have been remembered or noticed by anyone. Me.

(Depression and being actively suicidal create some horrible thoughts. I am not saying I believe them, but I need them here to show the contrast.)


Here, Dora is waiting outside the bathroom for me to finish brushing my teeth. She chose to do this, instead of playing with her toys.

Over and over, Dora chooses me. Me. I hope that one day, I’ll understand why.

Day 161 With Dora

We’re almost at the end of Dora’s formal training, although we will probably continue her private training for several months. Once she reaches the level we want her to stay at, we’ll need to keep practicing skills so she stays sharp.

I’m looking forward to be done with all the driving and the evenings we have to schedule around. I’m looking forward to being able to rest a bit, but I don’t know what it will look like.

It’s a little overwhelming, to be honest. Transitions always are.

Day 144 With Dora

Social anxiety has never been fun, per se. It’s quite a handful, and I can’t predict its rhythm. The last 16 days, however, have been awful.

Sixteen days ago, I was at the grocery store, with Dora in her vest, sitting on a bench, talking to my brother, who I met by chance. The Flutenist was getting our car, and I was minding my own business. Some random stranger, an old man with white hair a brown duster and- I kid you not- some sort of badge on his buttoned white shirt, says to me “Pretty dog you have there.”

Never mind that he’s a stranger. Never mind that he cut off my conversation midsentence. Never mind that he doesn’t look like law enforcement but is actually wearing a brass badge.

As a disabled person, strangers now expect to be able to interrupt me at any time in order to talk about my dog. On a date with my husband? Who cares?! Reading a book in a park? Not important! Trying to juggle six other things at a cash register? Not their problem.

Whatever. So he compliments Dora, I say “thank you,” and my mind starts loading up the relevant info. Her breed. Her name. Her age. She’s a rescue. Etc.

“Be careful with that collar. One good lunge and you’ll rip her throats out.” Drops mic. Turns and loads his groceries into his car in one of the handicapped parking spots. Drives away.

Dora wears a prong collar when she walks. It is properly sized, has rubber tips, and we have walked well over 100 miles since she got it. We both know each other’s walking speeds, distractions, expectations, needs, etc. 95% of the time, she stays right with me. 5% of the time there is a gust of wind or a new dog or a running child, and Dora gets excited, but she has never once hurt herself with this collar. I have not hurt her either. 

Dora chooses to stand politely next to me because she doesn’t want to be poked in the neck. I appreciate her not requiring the use of both arms and all the muscles in my torso in order to walk her. It is working for us. Neither of us is in danger.

What is wrong with this retired Texas Ranger wannabe?! Why does he like going up to disabled people and talking about their dogs dying in graphic language? Doesn’t he know that our dogs start to feel like an extension of ourselves? That after a few months together, we are closer to them than to any humans we know. Every good day, bad day, sick day, adventurous day- Dora is with me each step of the way. And I am with her when she is sick or scared, excited or happy. We are a team.

I love her.


Long story short: I’m scared to go in public now, because of this one selfish jerk who cares more about himself and his ego than reality. He didn’t ask any questions; he didn’t want to know about how Dora and I interact; he was just certain that he knew best, even though he knew next to nothing. All he could possibly have known about us is this:

  1. Dora is a medium sized black dog in an orange service dog vest, striped flat collar, and prong collar.
  2. I am an adult woman who is apparently not deaf, since I acknowledged hearing him.
  3. Dora was sitting politely at my feet without pulling at all.
  4. I was polite enough to drop everything and interact with him despite him rudely interrupting my visit with my brother.

That’s it. That’s all that he could know about us.

😩😡

And now, I get panic attacks in public, just by walking into stores. Why?! Wasn’t it already hard enough for me? Did I really need more burdens?! And most importantly: why can’t I just ignore him and move on when I know that’s what I need to do?!

Who I Want to Be

“I can be anyone I want to be,” they told me.

But I wanted not to be me, to be someone stronger, and I tried.

I ran my mouth until I pushed my friends away, and I looked strong, but I was lonely.

Then I wanted to be someone stoic, who didn’t feel pain.

So I squeezed my heart, wrung out the feelings until I felt no pain, but I lost my joy as well.

I wanted to be someone with a family who was kind, and I struggled.

I squinted and strained and crossed my eyes, until I couldn’t see their flaws and more until I couldn’t see my pain.

“I could be anyone I wanted to be,” they said, and I wanted to be someone else, but they lied. And now I need to make peace with the truth:

I can only be me.

Discarded Dream


This wind sock used to fly outside the tiny apartment that The Flutenist and I shared. We were at the graduate school where we met, and after a few twists and turns, we were married and both studying to be international aid workers. I brought it with us when we moved to the state I’m from.

1,200 miles. 1,900 kilometers. Same country, language, department stores, but light years of difference. I kept it because it was a piece of continuity. 

When we moved into the house owned by my grandparents but being prepared for someone else, I hung it up in the tree outside our window. On the days we had privacy and the days that my grandmother let herself into the house to move things around (why would people married 6 months ago want privacy?), that wind sock fluttered in our tree.

When we moved into my parents’ house, I packed it away with the rest of our things. It wasn’t our home.

When we moved into our tiny blue house where we live now, it went back up in a tree. I braided a cord for it out of yarn and hung it there. It stayed in our tree through the sun, rain, and snow. Through the gusts of wind that beat it against the tree bark. On the good days and the bad ones, it was there.

And now it’s gone. 

I took that picture of it yesterday, before I threw it away. Straight into the bottom of the trash can. With bags of Dora’s poop and our kitchen trash that smelled abysmal. Then out to the curb. This morning, I double checked our trash can before bringing it back inside, and it was empty. Just like that.

My tie to our past, to our lives before they changed forever, is gone. We’re stuck here. It’s real now.

Day 129 With Dora

My family, extended family especially, is not on board with my service dog. “You’re invited over, but Dora isn’t.” “I can’t believe you’re making me choose between seeing you and having a dog in my house.”

I just…

I expected this to come. I really didn’t think these people who have been selfish and distant for years, who have caused me pain and never tried to reach out to get to know me, they were never going to take it well. 

I just didn’t think it would hurt so much.