Three years ago, I found myself on the psych floor of a local hospital - for the second time. I’d been depressed for over a year, with wild changes in mood that I didn’t understand and that would later be diagnosed as bipolar disorder. I was angry and scared and miserable, and I had no idea what to do with myself. I spent most of my hospitalization silent and alone, except when the therapy dogs visited. One of the dogs was a big black lab, the sort of happy smiling animal that wiggles from nose to butt every time it meets a new person. That dog sat his whole sixty pounds in my lap, and I laughed until I cried.
The first place I went when I left the hospital with my mother was to the local animal shelter. My parents had always got their cats from rescues or shelters, and now - I was getting a dog. After a few visits, I settled on a young beagle mix who had been picked up running stray in North Carolina before being shipped to our New England shelter. I named him Romeo, and he’s my loverman.
The first nine months were chaotic. I had never owned a dog; my parents hadn’t had dogs since they’d been little kids. We were all clueless. I walked him everywhere I could, I did my best to teach him his manners out of a myriad of bought or borrowed training books, I obsessed about his diet. He, meanwhile, peed on everything, pulled on the leash, ate every coffee table in the house, devoured my younger brother’s homework, and even electrocuted himself on an electric cord while I was in the shower.
It took a long time, and in some ways the pet I have now is unrecognizable. After a couple of good walks a day, he’s content to curl up on the couch and snooze, or maybe play with our cat. He doesn’t chew anything except his toys and his bones. He never pees anywhere but on the grass. But he is still the wiggly, cuddly, enthusiastic, loving dog I met three years ago, the dog who taught me how to love somebody when I felt unloveable, the dog who reminded me that I was needed on the face of this earth - because he needed me.
Who rescued whom?