It was February of 2002 when we found each other.
Me, a 20-year-old fresh-faced college graduate with plenty of delusions about the life that lay ahead of me.
Him, an 8-week-old naked bellied, brown-eyed, deceptively subdued black lab puppy.
Sure, I had had dogs before – most notably my border collie, Sophie, who insisted, much to their chagrin, on herding neighborhood bicyclists whenever we went to the park – but Jet…Jet was different. Jet was my heart dog.
Life wasn’t always what I hoped it would be for either of us, but with Jet by my side, the sun never failed to rise.
In difficult times, we learned how to live on a shoestring budget even when those shoestrings were thinned and muddy and fraying at the ends.
In better times, we learned that money really didn’t buy happiness, although it certainly helped to have full bellies and a moment to breathe before the next bill came due.
As we grew into adulthood together, I learned that sometimes life isn’t fair. Sometimes the good do die young. Sometimes wolves do wear sheep’s clothing. Sometimes…well, sometimes life doesn’t just hand you lemons, it hands you squishy, brown, rotting lemons and your thumb goes right through the peel.
But I also learned that love is unconditional. That living is what matters. That even when you don’t know how, you will find a way. That when all is said and done, there are plenty more lemons with which to make your lemonade and if you don’t like lemonade, then by God you hike up your skirt, climb a tree and pick some oranges instead.
You see, there is something in the gift of a “heart dog” that makes even the impossible, possible. You’ll find it in their unwavering companionship and loyalty. You’ll find it in their unconditional love. But most of all, you’ll find it in their silent reassurance that someday, even when everything has gone to hell, that the universe will once again realign…
…and somehow it always does.