Why I Need A Dog

I said to the Universe, "I want a dog."

The Universe said to me, "I know you do. But we all want things."

I said again, "But I really want one though."

The Universe shrugged, then suggested I go for a walk. "It's so nice out."

So I stepped into my well-worn but still sturdy black boots. Eleven year-old Keens, just a few months older than my youngest child. There's a photo of her, somewhere, as a wobbling wide-eyed baby, wandering the marmoleum kitchen floor of my former life, her darling dimpled thighs swallowed whole by my size 7s. Now nearly as big as me, she borrows them when she doesn't want to lace up her Chucks to go empty the litter box. Those old boots zip right on and are so easy. The perfect boot for urban and rural tromping. With a dog. 

But fine, Universe, if you think I need alone time, I'll go for a walk. In my old boots. By myself. 

"Just one more thing .... Universe? You still there?" I stopped in my half-hearted tromping and waited as the wind whistled around my ears and tucked into my collar. The Universe didn't answer, but I imagine The Universe has a pretty packed cosmic calendar, so I kept walking instead of waiting for a reply. 

"It's okay, Universe. We can walk and talk. Or I'll talk, you can listen. It's just that I've been out for a walk now, by myself, for a few years. After Dexter passed away, it was really hard to go out on my own. My hands felt empty without his leash in one hand and his ball and chuck-it in the other. My words had nowhere to go except within my own head and to the occasional passerby who, let's be real, seldom return my gaze let alone my greeting. And honestly, since he passed, my heart has beat with less enthusiasm and joy, though of course I know," I paused, a quick look-at-how-good-a-student-I-am moment, "I know to be grateful it beats at all. Still, don't we all want our hearts to beat with maximum enthusiasm and joy?" 

I waited, blinking expectantly, hopefully. The Universe hit play on a pre-recorded response, "I know you do. But we all want things." 

The Universe was right, of course. I'm not the first to want something, even though the "thing" I wanted was a living being that I would love and vow to care for. But it was still a want. So I kept walking, alone. Hands in my pockets, one gripped around my iPhone like a tether to another dimension. The other balled up in a fist around my lip balm, not sure what to do with itself except pick at the label with my thumbnail. My shoulders folded in, wrapping the hard casing of my bones around the soft vulnerable space where my heart lives. And every time I felt the tug of "want" rise to my lips, I heard the echo in my head: We all want things. So in the place of "I want a dog" I summoned the gratitude for all that I already have. 

I am indeed grateful. And even though the wanting wouldn't stop, I put it away, in what seemed like a safe cage behind my ribs. 


"We're going to begin by welcoming in any spirits or guides who may be here to support you." I was sitting cross-legged on a quilted mat, eyes closed, inhaling into the tight space in my chest, just beyond the golf ball sized lump I've been feeling in my throat for a month. The counselor was going to help guide me into unwinding this tightness, and to find a way to dislodge the metaphoric golf ball. Despite gratitude, despite an image of my life that others may interpret as carefree, stress was hurting me. The weight in my chest was heavy and the breathing hard, tears on the constant brink of spilling over. I exhaled, and the counselor continued, "Any spirits, be they human ... or animal -" and then the tears burst through my shuttered eyelids and rushed down my cheeks as I felt the weight of a gentle head upon my thigh, and sensed a pair of deep, chocolatey eyes staring up into my face.

"I don't know who has joined us,” said the counselor, still with his eyes closed, “but I see the shape of what I think is a deer, a tall animal with an intent, protective gaze, standing nearby."

"That's Dexter!" I blurted through my sobs. "I can feel his head in my lap, and him looking up at me!" 

And of course it was Dexter. Of all the spirits who might have chosen to join me that day, it belonged to Dexter, my companion. When I was going through my divorce and I was often alone, Dexter was with me. When my kids were with their dad, when I was in my car, when I was working from home instead of in an office with co-workers, Dexter was there. I never felt truly alone with Dexter in my life. Then he was gone, far too soon. And I'm still here. 

"Welcome Dexter. We are so grateful you are here to offer your love and support to Kelli." Tears. All the tears. My grief came back in an avalanche. 

In my life, I've been called "independent" for as long as I can remember. I've been called "intimidating". I've been called "inspiring" (an empty word that means about as much as a Pinterest board). But most of the time, I simply feel "invisible".  My children are with me half-time. I have a wonderful co-parent who's not my partner. I have a loving but often-gone partner who's not my co-parent. And I work alone with a behind-the-scenes business where others receive the attention and credit for my ideas, my words, and expressions. I don’t so much crave the simple sugars of social media validation, but I do crave to be seen with the same clarity in which I see others.

Dexter always made me feel visible. And valued. And now, in a space of energetic healing, he was doing just that all over again. And it was from there that I began to understand the cage I have built around my heart, limiting full, healing breaths, and stopping me short from speaking my truth: I don't want to be invisible. I don’t want to feel alone.

The counselor asked at the end of our session, "So Kelli, if you had a basket and you could confidently put something in that basket that you need to take with you today, what would it be?"

I untangled my legs from their pretzled-knot on the mat, and brushed away the newest tears and answered confidently, "That I need a dog." And he said, "I believe that is absolutely true."

And the Universe, in an homage to someone else's carefully crafted lyrics, leaned in and sang straight to my heart as it began to unclench, "You can't always get what you want. But if you try some time, you just might find, you get what you need."

Queso, the newest addition to the family. Adopted through One Tail At A Time PDX.


Sandy Humphrey said…
Oh Kelli, What a beautiful tribute to Dexter! You had me crying and reminded me, yet again, how much I miss his Dad, Buck. I am so happy for you!

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