I will admit it is probably true that I love animals as much if not more than people, including some family members. Nonetheless, my recent adoption of a pretty young thing (Michael Jackson reference intended), Miss Mila Rose, has been met with some perplexing thoughts. But first, a little background:
Mila is from Puerto Rico. She’s been in the states now for about 2 months. Her battle scars from life on the streets are healed and the visibility of her ribs and spine has diminished as her appetite now rivals my own. (Impressive.) But whatever Mila experienced before she traded in a truck stop concrete bed for a memory foam mattress still haunts her. Her big brown eyes (yes, like Mila Kunis) express concern when they’re open and her body shivers and jolts with night terrors when they’re closed.
Despite the heat wave that our tiny apartment is experiencing right now as a result of these old steam heaters clicking and hissing away since the temperature outside has dropped, Mila is not discouraged from sitting on my lap while I write this. Her slight panting and heartbeat makes me marvel at the animal bond we share, a connection which only true dog lovers can relate to. Okay, maybe the cat enthusiasts too. I wonder if the sound of my own heart beating comforts her at all while she rests. I can only hope it does.
Mila wants to kill the neighbor’s dog, and probably the neighbor. Clearly this is not ideal. Her aggression has manifested in the month we’ve had her and I can only assume it’s out of her protective nature for my boyfriend and me. Mila does not let me out of her sight if she has anything to say about it. She will follow me tirelessly around the apartment, even into the bathroom just so we aren’t separated. I don’t know if she’s more worried about protecting me or my protecting her. I agree the buddy system is ideal for ladies, but this attachment causes some serious dependency issues for both of us. She worries I’ll never come back when I leave to go to the store. I worry she’ll bite someone and be taken away from me, and euthanized, the thought of which I cannot bear. Call me crazy (again), but this dog and I are spiritually bound to each other. The rescuing goes both ways.
At 32.6 pounds, Mila is not a large dog, but I have no doubt she’s fought well beyond her weight class. And I know she doesn’t want to fight, but thinks she has to and it breaks my heart. She is one of the most loving dogs I’ve ever encountered, especially given her background. But I can’t let her behavior with me allow me to forget that this bitch can kick some serious ass.
I didn’t name Mila after Mila Kunis, despite those big browns. Milagrosa (pronounced Mila Rosa) in Spanish means miraculous, and that’s what I thought of when I heard about her survival story. Ninety-nine percent of dogs in Puerto Rico, the satos that roam the streets as Mila once did, are killed. I have part of the one percent that live numbing my leg with her weight and body heat right now. My Puerto Rican princess is a scrapper, and I must admit I kind of like that about her. I like all of her complexities and her issues, probably because they remind me of myself and if a dog can have issues, it makes it more acceptable that I do. I love when she closes her eyes when I sing to her or wags her tail in a circular motion that moves her whole body when our eyes meet after being apart for a few hours. Or ten minutes. I love that we don’t have to talk and that our love and loyalty is unconditional. Yep, even if she gets us evicted.
But back to all those complexities. It makes me wonder why we are so quick to write off people for their imperfections, but we can be so accepting of the exact same thing that manifests in an animal we choose to adopt or even buy from the pet store (please don’t do this). For those of us animal lovers, we put up with a lot without realizing it. We’ll let our pets destroy our homes, our valuables, shit on the new carpet, maybe even give us some scratches or bruises and we’ll take it all lying down. But when a person comes along, with their own complicated past, somehow they aren’t good enough and we immediately wonder if we should keep them around. If they make a mistake, we punish them repeatedly. Forgiveness isn’t forgiveness if you keep bringing it up, ya know?
I think what Mila has taught me is that we should all be a little more accepting of each other. I wouldn’t let my pride get in the way if Mila did something wrong. I wouldn’t reject her and make her feel bad about it for days or weeks. I would never give her up or give up on her. If we can do this for our pets, why can’t we do this for each other?
A final quote to wrap this up and ponder as you interact with both the human and animal populations today (yes, basically the same thing):
“Be the person your dog thinks you are” (Anonymous)