My soulmate died last week. And with her passing, not only did a piece of my heart go with her, but an entire chapter of my life was suddenly and forcibly closed. Still reeling in shock, I have finally sat myself down so that I can spill my thoughts and write a farewell that may or may not be good enough for her.
How We Met
It was the summer after I turned sixteen, and I was living in the backwoods in a two bedroom mobile home with my bestie, her three siblings, their very young/fun mom and a random creepy 30-something dude who lived in a shanty on the side of the house. My pal and I would spend our days finding cigarette butts in in the Dairy Queen parking lot and talking about traveling the world together or becoming strippers. I had been shifted from town to town over the last two years thanks to my fickle mama and my unreliable pappy, and when my buddies mom met me, she decided to actively try and adopt me. My own mega jealous mom residing in the midwest was not enjoying the prospect of being presumed a “bad mother” and the two of them would get into screaming matches over the telephone. I felt special. My mom would call her a trailer trash whore, and fake mom would tell her that I was now her child, and that her abandoning ass would never see me again. They would then pick apart each others looks without ever having even seen a picture. “No man in his right mind would ever fuck your skanky old ass” or “You broke betch, I bet your dog don’t even like you” could be heard pouring out of their mouths. Classaganza.
Previously, I’d been living with my kind-of-douchey brother in his ramshackle trailer. My dad had casually dropped me off with him after deciding that “it would be a great place for me to grow up”. A few months after getting shit-faced with my brother, he smacked me hard across the face one night. Even though I didn’t actually care, that was the excuse I gave for moving out. The real reason I left was because ever since I was a wee young lad, I had been begging anyone who would listen for a dog of my very own. Every year it was shoved immediately into the #1 slot on my christmas list. And every year I would end up with some sort of scented lotion and clothes that I would rather die than wear. When I lived with kind-of-douche, I actually brought a dog home one time. I named him Smokey and I almost loved him. But he was my dog for less than 24 hours before brotherman made me give him back. It was around that time that I realized I had no choice. I had to get the hell out. And my best friends house was the only possible option because of the following…
1. They would let me have one.
2. They conveniently had a preggo dog on hand.
After two-ish months and four hours of waiting around the trailer, their mangy looking dog Shania Twain gave birth to ten fresh-faced mutt puppies, and I finally got to pick my girl out from the heap. Admittedly I chose her sister first, until two hours later when I noticed that Shady’s coloring was the most striking hue of golden-brown. I pulled an immediate flip flop and traded in Sady for Shady. I was ecstatic! I couldn’t get enough of this teeny ball of brown country dog and spent every moment I could literally just creepily staring at her (I really have ever only dabbled in school). My wannabe family was broke-as-shit, so I’d sneak Shady into the garage and feed her tiny bits of stolen kibble while I would feed myself tiny bits of stolen bologna. I would whisper over and over into her ear that I loved her. Shady would also hang out with me in the creepy dudes shanty, wagging her tiny tail furiously and watching me sit awkwardly on his lap while he begged me to move to a state that allowed underage marriage while going up my shirt.
It was a bit rough-times during those days. All the pups but Shady died of a dog disease called parvo, which is usually passed on through the dirt on the ground. Since we were so fucking poor, there was no way we could afford to take them all to the vet. Instead we just watched as each puppy dropped one by one like flies. Horrified we kept making the eight year old brother bury them, but we would always have to redo it since he was so young and could never dig deep enough. Luckily for me, I had a generous and jealous mother that paid to keep Shady in the vets office for two weeks while she tried to seduce me into moving back home. I will forever be grateful to my mom for doing that, and saving Shady’s life. She made me trade a visit home in exchange for the vet bill. This was in hopes of wooing me with See’s candy and promises of a better life, but once there we began arguing as usual and she actually shipped me back on an early flight.
To top off the trauma of this dog family, Shania Twain herself came to a very untimely end. We were watching Billy Ray Cyrus singing that embarrassing Achey Breaky Heart song on the tv one night when we heard something. It was a very loud and distinctive thump right outside our front door. Tormented little brother (who p.s. now resides in prison) opened it and began screaming in a high pitched child’s scream that sent us all running over. It was Shania Twains head cut clean off, with no hint of her body in sight. I stood there in terror as my friends all decided that it must have been “wolves”. I’d like to take this moment to beg to differ. Mostly due to the fact that we lived a mile from the KKK and they happened to be the only Mexican family in this extremely racist and hillbilly town. Nobody liked me and my fake family much around those parts, but I had always thought it’s because we were known as the slutty, poor girls.
When my mom finally worked her manipulation-magic and had me literally banished from this shitshow of a town, Shady and I were then shipped off to Rosarita, Mexico to enjoy a romantic stint with my ancient and highly eccentric pappy. My pop had moved to mexico when I was 8 years old because he “enjoyed the warm weather”. My mom told us that he was really just avoiding paying taxes. It was probably a nice mixture of both. Weeks quickly became months as Shades and I spent our days jamming to the one English music station on the radio. We would wander the streets of Mexico together to pass the time, inhaling pineapple popsicles and collecting hobo dogs as pals. People would stare at our motley crew as we meandered about. My long blonde hair and the sheer quantity of odd-looking hounds were rather a bizarre sight. We often collected five or six dogs, and they followed us everywhere. It was always a bit depressing when I couldn’t let them into the dingy apartment building I was living in, but at least they got an adventure and a shit ton of affection from me.
My pop couldn’t quite get it together enough to put me in school, so I would just daydream about being famous, or a becoming a Montana horse ranch owner. He was a sweet man, but didn’t know how to care for a kid and would leave me alone for days at a time. He would give me a twenty for food and I would buy plain cheese pizza and cheap mexican candy and gorge until I was sick. I also would watch that gay as hell Angelina Jolie movie, Firefox, on repeat. Actually, to be more specific, I really just watched the scene where Legs kissed the plain faced prudish girl, over and over. I would tell myself that it was “just a cool movie about teens who took charge”. But really I was feeling turned on imagining I was the prude babe while simultaneously denying to myself that I was a Mega-LESBO. My high school years were incredibly isolating for me, with Shady being pretty much my only friend for what seemed like an eternity. We were incredibly close, and I rarely left her at home
How We Became Soulmates
She was six months and I was sixteen years when we were kidnapped. Taking her out for a late night walk, we were suddenly and abruptly shoved into the back of a beaten up yellow taxi cab. I barely protested it because in my immediate thoughts, I decided to just casually open the other door the moment I was fully in. My brilliant plan was to basically hop in, and then hop right back out and fucking RUN. Unfortunately, once the car door slammed behind us, I realized that he had rigged the locks, and we were stuck. I was never able to describe to the police what he looked like. His face was always just an angry blur to me. His eyes stood out though. They were furious and crazy and frantic and his pupils were so dilated that his eyes looked almost entirely black. The other thing I remembered was there there were “101 dalmation” stickers plastered all over the dashboard. I kept telling myself that this would be a good clue, and tried to memorize every dusty and peeled part of them.
He drove for over an hour, hand leaned back and pressing my head down in the seat while he shouted threats in a language I couldn’t understand much of. I was in a state of panic, and kept trying to think of ways to flee. I could see blurry street lights as we flew far from the town of Rosarita, and then only darkness as he drove up the country roads. After what seemed like an eternity we slowed to a stop and he yanked me up front with him. He pulled my clothes off and started groping me while I sobbed hysterically. After a few minutes I noticed that the lock in the front wasn’t rigged. I suddenly screamed so loudly that he actually backed away for an instant, jumped out, and started speeding down the road with Shady flying even faster a bit ahead of me.
My legs weren’t quick enough and within minutes my head was being slammed over and over into the gravel rocks that coated the ground. To this day, I am still in awe on how it is possible for my head to have taken that much abuse, and to still be standing. I felt nauseous as he started dragging me kicking and screaming back into the car. Once in, I began shouting in desperation for Shady after he slammed the door shut. Even in my beaten state, all I could think about was if I didn’t get her back, I’d never find her again. He turned the key and started the motor and I felt like my mind was literally going to explode. Some magical force must have been watching over me that night. Almost out of nowhere Shady had decided to come back to us, and thank fucking god, he let me bring her back into the cab.
He began driving around again, this time pressing my face harder into the dirty leather seats for fear that I would escape again. I was so scared that my heart was racing a mile a minute. I started imagining getting locked away in a cage for the rest of my life, being taken out only to get violated in terrifying ways. I knew that most people that are kidnapped never get away, and this fact had my body tensed up in such an extreme way that I felt like a piece of petrified wood. I literally couldn’t stop trembling intensely the entire time, to the point where I thought my bones would vibrate out of my skin. It’s insane what our bodies go through, and the reactions they have to fear. We finally arrived at a strange looking one room shack, and after he took a lengthy leak while holding my throat with his huge hands, he led both Shady and I inside. The room was decorated in such a fashion that I can only and forever describe it as a “Love Shack”. Bright red comforter on a rickety old cot, pink curtains, a tiny, flickering red lightbulb and dirt floors. I knew once we were in there that this place was specifically designed for raping young women.
I was in the Love Shack for over six hours. At first I was worried about losing my virginity to rape. After a bit, my innocent and childish fears wisened up and I started to worry about being killed. I kept glancing all around me looking for ways to escape. I made a million plans that never went to fruition. I remembered a ghost story told by a schoolmate that involved someone saying “I love Jesus” three times in order to live. I began saying that over and over again, out loud, in hopes that it would save my life. He kept telling me to shut up, but I ignored him. I made promises to God, my dead grandmother, the Virgin Mary (I’m not even catholic) and pagan saints whose names I didn’t even know. I swore that I would be a perfect person if I could only live another day. I frantically cried and told him that my incredibly impoverished father was a wealthy man and would pay him. I also told him that I was only 12, because I knew that I looked much younger than my age.
He never raped me. I won’t go into detail why, after all those hours, he was unable to, as it’s a bit too graphic. Lets just say that his tiny coked-out dick will probably never work the same, and one should never underestimate the potential survival instincts and raw fury of a pissed off teenager. After I unleashed some serious CBT on him, he finally overtook me yet again. He started punching with heavy fists over and over on my head and face until it was swollen to almost twice its size. Laying in a daze, with blood draining slowly down from my left ear drum and into sticky red streaks in my hair, I stared into Shady’s eyes. I felt like the only way I was able to breathe right then was because she was with me. This tiny puppy was visibly upset and shaking, and I tried to comfort her. I told her it was going to be okay, over and over, in a then weak voice. After broken-dick-dude had tired himself out beating me, he lay next to me for a bit, his chest heaving from exertion.
I thought I was dead already. But with one of the most bizarre streaks of luck, he decided not to kill me. The cocaine and whatever else he was on may have also worn off at that point. He shoved both Shady and I back into his car and drove us home. In the car ride he kept saying in spanish “no sex, no sex”! I pretended to be happy and that everything was grand on my end, and just kept telling him in broken spanish that it was okay. I was afraid he would change his mind and take us back to the shack, or just outright murder us. He dropped my dog and I right back off at the exact same corner he had taken us. Beaten and bloodied, I somehow made my way back to my pops apartment. It was almost surreal, that night. Thinking I was going to lose my dog. Thinking I was going to lose my once sacred virginity. And then thinking I was going to die. And then I was just back in my living room almost like nothing had happened. Minus of course, my new fun minor hearing loss and the last of my barely-there innocence.
We caught Broken Dick Dude. My mom flew in and both parents and I drove the countryside for days until we found landmarks near the Love Shack that I recognized. The police were incompetent, but friendly, and locked him away for years. It turned out he had a young wife, and I felt sad for her. I saw her at the police station, and looked beaten down herself. She was very young and embarrassed. And don’t bother crying for me. Not only am I one of the toughest mother fuckers out there now, Shady and I became so close that night, that I walked away with the greatest love affair of my life. You don’t go through hell and back with someone and not develop a special connection. We will forever be bound by the pain, the happiness and the life we ended up sharing.
Our Life Together
Over the next fifteen years Shady meandered about with me, always walking by my side. She watched me as I became a jolly/sloppy alcoholic, and adapted easily by becoming a superior bar dog. She would follow me to each dive bar and let herself out to pee by waiting for someone to open the door. As I got drunker, she would walk around to random tables begging for food and affection(slut). One time, while romping free in SF, some cops tried to pick her up and my brilliant, escapist dog ran from them all the way home. They managed to drag her out of the warehouse I was living in, and took her to dog jail. Telling me I needed proof to bust my dog out of the pound, I brought a bizarre professional photograph taken of her with Santa Claus from the year before. It worked, and she was free once again to be my constant sidekick. I have no idea how she put up with me all those years, as I was so fucking wasted. I suppose her love and the pizza I drunkenly shared with her kept her loyal. I think in a way my party times must have been kind of exciting for her. Roaming around everywhere and constantly being fed stale tortilla chips and cheeseburgers isn’t actually that much of a bummer for a very social and insatiably hungry dog.
She watched me as I went through a sex change, and as encouragement, oddly began lifting her leg up to take a piss. Ten years on testosterone and I still can’t do that. She would run next to me as I raced in parks in the middle of the night and through the roads every day. Each girl I loved became her mama, and each girl that broke my heart suddenly got the cold shoulder from her. She’s been awkwardly on porn sets, modeled for both photographers and painters, had a lesbian romance with an old black lab. Shady stole the hearts of everyone that met her. She disapproved of my casual encounters, and would insert herself in between us on the bed. I would tell them that she “must really like them”, but I knew she was just being cheeky. We both shared stomachs of steel and would attempt to out eat each other quite frequently. Among her favorites were vanilla ice cream, pizza and salami. I was less selective.
Years ago she became an adopted mama to two very tiny kittens. One day I caught her carrying one of them by the scruff of its neck. I’d like you to just stop and think for a moment about just how strange it was to see a 55 pound dog walking past me with a cat in her mouth. It was fucking weird. Often, my mother’s bizarre pug would lay down and suckle on shadys non-lactating nipples for so many hours that nonconsensual viewers would begin to feel uncomfortable. A few years back, I woke up in the middle of the night to find that she had somehow ended up with a funky hat of mine on her head. My friends insist that this was a dream. I’d like to go ahead and insist right back that it was not a dream. I laid on the ground and kissed her face in the moonlight. It was both romantic and familial, and she was wearing a god damn hat.
After many years passed, we no longer even needed verbal signals between us. We were so in tune that somehow she knew exactly what I wanted her to do. She would put her paw on me when I cried, and jump around happily when I got excited. She watched me grow up from a wild teen girl, to a fucked up young boy and finally helped raise me into the man I am today. I am by far a better person because of my dog. I can’t write anymore about my experiences with her, as it’s been almost fifteen years and it would take an entire book. So I’ll sum up this story with a letter to her.
I miss you so much already, sweetheart. I keep walking down the street feeling numb and imagining that you are walking next to me. Your grey muzzled face is starting to get fuzzy in my head already, and it’s making my heart feel even more broken. I want you to know that I will never love another more than I have loved you. You were so wise with me. You were so calm and patient with me. You were always so happy your entire life, and this in turn made me so happy. I am honored to have called you my wife, my mama, my daughter and my best friend. I wish it hadn’t been so hard for us this last year, and I’m so sorry my love. I will never, ever forget the lessons you taught me with just a look in your sweet brown eyes. And I want to thank you for giving me what I have always wanted, your unconditional love. You gave a broken child the tools to become a happy man with an open heart, and I am forever grateful. Please watch over me, and I’ll pray every day that we will be together again.
I love you,