Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Clyde T. Dog

When someone's dog passes, people will often write how much he or she meant to them and how they changed their lives, and it's always very very VERY sad. Each time I read one of those (and I always end up reading them), I always end up thinking, "This should've been written while they were still alive, so it wouldn't be so freaking sad."

So since today is my very own Clyde T. Dog's makeshift birthday, I thought I'd blow the dust off this old blog and do just that. WARNING: this will be sappy and personal but I don't care.

I've dealt with depression and anxiety as long as I can remember. That means lots of doctors, lots of helpings from the medication sampler plate, lots of turns at the medication roulette wheel, lots of people telling me to "just get over it." Staying on top of all that in an attempt to stay healthy and functional is work.

So like anything else, it's nice to take a break from that work occasionally. Unfortunately, "occasionally" became a lot more frequent, as I began to drink myself into oblivion in an attempt to get my brain to quiet down. I dreaded going to work and often called in for no reason, just so I could stay home and do nothing. And by nothing, I mean nothing -- I didn't read, watch TV, go on the internet, eat, shower, anything.

I thought a dog would help pull me out of this malaise, at least in a superficial sense. It was something I'd been thinking on and off about for a couple years, figuring it'd be nice to have a companion to hang out with, or at least a conversation piece. I had a dog as a kid (Rudy T. Dog) and he was cool to have around, so long as I wasn't responsible for him. But still, this new dog wouldn't be a big deal. So I'd buy food and treats and toys, that's not so bad.

My girlfriend Pearl and I went to the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley, MN and didn't see anything that fit what I was looking for. Until we were headed on our way out, Pearl said, "What about this guy?" The sign said 26 pounds, corgi mix. I didn't even see him on our first two go-rounds of the facility, because he was curled up in a tight little ball in the middle of his kennel. He did not want anything to do with the rest of the shelter.

A volunteer brought him outside for us. I sat Indian-style on the ground, and within 2 seconds, this dog butted his head against my lap like a cat. Well, that's that. This is Clyde, my new dog.

After all the paperwork, we brought him home to my condo, and his demeanor changed immediately. The sad sack puppy eyes act was gone, and he was trotting around like he owned the place. You could almost hear him saying, "Couch... bed... nice chair over here... yeah, this place will work out fine," before he plopped down in front of the sliding glass door to scope out the rabbits and squirrels below.

It was at this point that it hit me like a ton of bricks: I'm responsible for this guy. Me. Jesus Christ, I can't even take care of myself, how the hell am I going to take care of this dog? What the hell have I done?

And I lost it, sitting there sobbing like an idiot. I was overwhelmed. I had to do everything I could to take care of this guy, because he needed me. I'm just some naive sheltered doofus, nothing is supposed to need me. But this butt-nosed smug dog does.

That was 4 years ago today, the day my life changed for the better. Now I had structure. My own personal problems had to take a back seat -- it was irrelevant how I felt, how depression hit me that day, how anxious I was, because this dog needs me. So we walked twice a day for an hour, rain or shine, every single day, including the day you're reading this. And hey, whaddya know, having structure and being outside every day turned out to be extremely beneficial.

That sort of stuff builds confidence over time, and eventually led to leaving MN for New Mexico, the hardest thing I've ever had to do. But I knew I could do it because Clyde's smug buttnose face was right there with me.

Happy birthday, Clyde T. Dog