Holy Shit Do I Love My Dog

On the twentieth fourth of this month, Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place celebrated its all-important two month anniversary, and I’ve got to say: none of you have gotten me anything! It’s almost as if two month anniversaries aren’t actually a thing, like fourth grade graduations or principled Donald Trump supporters.  

Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place has been, as its name suggests, a fairly thorough repository of all of the things that I love, and that make me me. So it seems a little strange that I have somehow made it all this time without talking about one of the things I love most in the world, my dog Ghostface. 

Like so many good things in my life, I have my wife to thank for Ghostface. She’s violently allergic to cats, but I’ve always been an animal lover so we eventually got a tiny, crazy Yorkie puppy we decided to call Ghostface. It was love at first sight. The first moment I saw that rambunctious ball of fur and energy I knew that I had to have him, that he’d be the first real dog I ever had. He was so tiny as a puppy that he used to be able to sleep in my shoe! 

Our first few years with Ghostface, when I had something called a “job” and “benefits”, we spoiled him like only a childless couple can. Our lives revolved around our furry little child and when the wife got pregnant it marked a profound change in our relationship with Ghost. Ghost was unceremoniously demoted to number two in our hearts, and did not respond well to the changes. 

For years, Ghostie has been engaged in a passive-aggressive war of resentment with our son but they’ve come to a good place in that conflict. They still aren’t best buddies but they seem to have reached some manner of truce. I have been annoyed at how Ghostie treated Declan but I feel like we’ve made it through the storm to a place of peace. 

Just having Ghostie around makes me happy. He's my furry little shadow. When I'm feeling sad, he comforts me. When I'm feeling lonely, he's always around. If I got along with everybody as well as as I do my dog the world would be a much different, much better place. 

Honestly, the best part of working from home is the unlimited amount of time I get to spend with my dog. I am profoundly blessed that the only other creature in my home office is a Yorkie I could not love more. Ghostie loves Decatur, and I love that he’s happy and seems at peace with the world and his place in it. I’m happy that I have as well.  

I was moved to write this after listening to the latest episode of Mental Illness Happy Hour. It’s one of my favorite podcasts, and a podcast that has had such a profound impact on me that it’s weird that only now am I realizing that the word “happy” appears prominently in the title of both the Mental Illness Happy Hour and Nathan Rabin’s Happy Hour, and in a way that is at once ironic, non-ironic and hopeful. 

Gilmartin has been baring his soul and sharing his intimate struggles on the podcast in a way that makes it easy to become deeply emotionally invested in his life. On Mental Illness Happy Hour, Gilmartin shares his pain but also what makes him happy, and for years that has been his dog Herbert. 

There’s a palpable joy when Gilmartin discussed Herbert. Just from the tone of his voice and his inflections, you could tell just what a wonderful, special dog Herbert was and how much Gilmartin loved him. He’s talked about Herbert so much that I’ve come to love a dog I’ve never met, and only seen pictures of. So when Gillmartin told listeners that Herbert had died unexpectedly, I mourned Herbert’s passing, and felt as much sympathy for Gilmartin as I did when I found out that he was getting divorced. 

If you don’t know how the death of an animal can hurt just as much as the death of a person, or the death of a marriage, then you’ve never had the profound honor of loving an animal, or known just how excruciatingly painful and traumatic their deaths can be. 

The phrase “just a dog” or “just a pet” enrages me. To people who love dogs the way I love Ghostface, and I’m imagining the protagonist of the movie and novel Must Love Dogs must love dogs, then there’s no end to how much pain and suffering the death of an animal can cause. 

I live every day with Ghostie as if it is our last. I am constantly telling him how much I love him and how much he means to me, but I try to express it through my actions as well. Because I know someday Ghostie won’t be my furry little shadow, he won’t be the peaceful little creature who sleeps in the crook of my knee and makes me so consistently happy. Someday he’s going to be a cherished memory, and I want to spend as much quality time with him as possible before that happens. 

But it’s not enough to simply tell my dog I love him verbally. That’s why I’m writing this essay. So Ghostie, if you have somehow mastered human English language and are now reading this, I love you, buddy, and I’m also super impressed and surprised at your literacy. I’ve always known you were a special dog, but I never realized exactly how special. 

Support Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace