Happy Birthday, My Darling Dog

Comet, our beloved mutt, turned eight yesterday. Since she was rescued from a kill shelter in the South, we aren’t certain of her actual birthday, but when I took her to the vet when we adopted her in May of 2010, she estimated Comet was around 4.5 months old, so that was the date we chose. Just because her birthdate is unknown, doesn’t mean our spoiled pup doesn’t get a yearly acknowledgement of the gift of her existence. In fact, she gets two special annual appreciation days: her January birthday and the anniversary of her May adoption day when she became the third member of our little family. Like most parents of actual children say, it’s hard to believe she’s already eight years old. Although it seems like several lifetimes ago in some ways, the welcoming of her into our little NYC apartment seems like barely a few years ago as well. She also still has a rather puppy-like look and people are always shocked when they ask how old my “puppy” is and I respond with her current age. She can act like a puppy too, but I like that. It makes her seem energetic, youthful, healthy, and full of wonder.

Comet has been as perfect as a dog as I could have expected or even hoped for. She’s sweet, cute, usually quiet, not too hyper, and easy to care for. She loves to cuddle and eat vegetables and lights up when she sees me, which makes me do the same. What more could you want in a pet? She’s a nice companion to someone so isolated and I’m grateful every day that the agency we adopted her from rescued her from her dire and dismal fate. I will never understand how people can abuse, harm, abandon, or kill animals. If you look into Comet’s deep brown eyes, you can feel her feelings, you can understand her valuable worth.

Comet, like me, tends to be overly submissive and anxious. She is very shy around other dogs and gets nervous when unfamiliar people come to the door. I blame some of that behavior on my own personality and the fact that she’s likely adopted that temperament by spending nearly all of her life with me. Dogs are very perceptive to the emotions of the humans they love and they react to our behaviors and reactions. I feel badly for inflicting any sort of anxious mindset. Thankfully, she doesn’t respond aggressively when she’s nervous, in any sort of obnoxious and loud display of barking or lashing out. Like me, she cowers and seeks cover; she is the queen of avoidance in dog social situations, but I always encourage her to interact with dogs that I know are safe. I sometimes wonder if her presence during my attack scarred her with some sort of dog PTSD. I don’t imagine their neurology to be as complex as a human, and so she likely doesn’t have “memories” or flashbacks the way I do. However, it seems plausible that a major violent experience could cause lasting anxieties and fearful repercussions. Comet, I’m so sorry.

Not to remove myself from blame, but for the sake of accuracy and completeness, Comet was quite skittish, shy, and nervously reactive as soon as we got her as a puppy before my “nurturing” had any opportunity to affect her “nature” or previous few months of life. I can’t imagine a puppy whose been abandoned and placed in a kill shelter was privy to a comfortable, safe, and loving early life. She probably had food insecurity, the absence of a dog mother, had to fend for herself with her litter mates, and may have been subjected to abuse, neglect, and danger. It’s unreasonable to expect her to be unscathed from such a tumultuous and non-nurturing early life. Above all, I hope she did not suffer too much and feels deeply loved, always safe, and fastidiously taken care of in our home. She’s been a wonderful addition to our lives and I can only hope that if dogs can feel appreciation, satisfaction, and security, Comet is never in need of these in our family.

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