It’s become a new routine of mine to take the dogs to the dog park after the kids get on the bus for school in the morning. Yesterday was no different. I waved goodbye to Christian as his bus drove away and then opened my back car door, motioning both the dogs to hop in. They were thrilled we were going somewhere before 8 am.
As was I (please note the sarcasm here).
The dog park is more for Romeo’s benefit. He needs to run. He loves to run. I mean, really, really loves to run. I don’t think anything makes him happier than open land, wind on his face, and the freedom to do whatever he pleases.
As I stood there watching him run laps around me and Lily, who was – of course – sitting about a foot to the right of me, I laughed at how we had simply become spectators to the show he was putting on. If you’ve ever seen a pit bull smile, you know how easily it can melt your heart. Now imagine a pit bull smiling, while flying in the air. All four legs off the ground…. over and over and over again.
It’s almost magical.
That’s just how it is with Rome. His presence. His eyes. His steel gray coat. His bark. His big head. And slender, muscular body. And of course, his ready-to-play-at-a-drop-of-a-dime attitude. Everything about him is somewhat magical and always has been. I quickly learned when we got him two years ago that this is now Romeo’s world and we’re just living in it.
Trust me, though, it’s a fun world to be in.
A world that causes a little trouble here and there, and reminds you to lighten up and have some fun. Without Rome knowing it, he adds so much comic relief to the everyday stress of single parenting. But every now and then I’m reminded of the year right before we got him. It was a year that lacked the fun, excitement, and head shaking experiences that Romeo brings to the table. It was dark and lonely and only a few steps away from when my life (as I knew it) would fall apart.
In the midst of the darkness, however, a calm, quiet, loyal, and loving force was present. She was unassuming and safe; as if I had known her my whole life. A familiar face in the heart of a storm.
Her name was Lily, and she is my soulmate dog.
Being a first-time dog owner, I did everything by the books. Pink leash, pink collar, pink name tag. Even got her one of those PetSmart “puppy guide” books that comes with tons of coupons I never used. I logged many hours on Google learning all about our new life with Lily but all I really knew was she was born May 16 and was a ‘hound mix’. Took some time but we actually learned she was a Rhodesian Ridgeback and that is when I fell in love with the breed. I joined as many Ridgeback groups on Facebook as possible to soak up more information and share pictures of my sweet girl.
That is where I met Deena, a dog (and beer) connoisseur of sorts. I’ve never actually met her but you can tell just how lively and fun of a person she is. Married, no kids, travels a ton. At the time, she had two Ridgebacks – one being Piper. And although the physical characteristics of Piper and Lily were very different, Piper was about 9, with plenty of gray hair covering her face and Lily, just a 13-week old puppy, they still resembled each other in ways that were hard to ignore.
Soulful eyes, sweet disposition, beautiful faces, gentle souls. Piper was Deena’s soulmate dog.
I had no idea what that meant at the time, but I liked the sound of it: Soulmate dog. Sometimes referred to as your “once in a lifetime dog”. Again, it was a term that was new to me but oh, how I loved the idea of it. And I soon realized how well-known this was. It’s almost like a well-kept secret that only dog lovers know. Mention the words lifetime dog amongst dog lovers and you’ll be greeted with a sigh, a nod, a smile, and then a handful of stories about how their dog has changed them for the better. In ways that have never happened before. Not from a marriage or a child or a dream that’s finally seen the light of day.
But a dog. Pretty magical.
Soulmate dogs are dogs we love in extremely powerful and unexplainable ways. Never really knowing how we lived before them or how we will ever live without them. They hold such special places in our hearts that seem to reach just a bit deeper than anything else. They come along when we least expect it. Maybe in moments of pure happiness or moments of crippling grief. Wherever you are when you and your lifetime dog find each other, you will soon experience not only unconditional love but a sense of comfort and peace and deep connection.
A bond that truly is once in a lifetime.
Lily is that for me.
She was a silent reminder to put one foot in front of the other when I barely wanted to get out of bed, as if she was nudging me (literally and figuratively) to get back out in the world again. A 13-week old puppy suggesting to live again, who would have thought? Even if living meant forcing myself to take a walk with her or to feel things I didn’t want to feel. That year before Romeo, although dark and hard to look back on, was the biggest turning point of my life. It’s when I started to break cycles so deeply rooted within myself and learned how to observe my emotions, rather than react off of them.
I was 28 years old and finally growing up.
Lily stood patiently, playfully, and loyally by my side. Never needing more than I could give but always instilling a sense of hope that life will get better. And it has! I often think, it could have been any dog but it was her. My fiercely devoted and stunningly beautiful Ridgeback. My once in a lifetime girl. My soulmate dog.