There’s nothing quite so peaceful as watching my dog Ray snore in my arms.
Before I started graduate school, I worked at a humane society in Edmonton. I had been working there several months when I met Ray. Except at the time, his name was “Demon dog”, because he was totally blind from cataracts and therefore had white eyes that made him look possessed. Imagine Storm from X-men when she does her freaky weather thing.
Aaanyways, the first time I met him, he was trapped at the back of his kennel while the rest was being cleaned. He was obviously frightened and disoriented, so I decided I would take him into the back yard until they were done washing. I didn’t want to pick him up because his eyes scared me, and I had been bitten too many times by unfamiliar dogs to trust this weird, anomalous creature infront of me. But after trying to leash him and making things worse, I had to pick him up. He grabbed on to my arms with his little white paws, leaned his head against my chest, and snuggled in. I fell in love.
The problem was, he was a stray. No one knew where he’d come from or what he’d been through. I didn’t even know his name. He was given two weeks for his owners to pick him up, and then he was scheduled to be euthanized. He was old and totally blind – not suitable for adoption. Two weeks. I tried everything I could think of to find his owners. I called the probable breeder. I called vet offices, radio stations, I even got friends to look for flyers in the area he was found to see if anyone was looking for him. No one was. After a week and a half, it was clear that the little guy was going to get euthanized. And to be honest…I was fine with that. I’d been working there so long I’d become used to losing dogs I loved. He was going to be another mark on a chalkboard of dogs I’d cared about that had died, not really a life lost. It was my boyfriend that stepped in. The dog had made an impression on him. The dog was clearly old, but maybe we could make his last hurrah memorable? He didn’t want this poor animal’s life to end like this, blind and alone on a table without his family.
So we took him home. Despite the fact that our apartment was not dog friendly, we snuck him in and out. Three times a day, up and down 18 flights of stairs each time. At first he was quite an ugly dog. His hair was so thin you could see his pink skin underneath, and he had a curly little rat tail. But with some love and care, his fur grew in and 2 years later, he’s turned out to be an exceptionally beautiful dog.
The funny thing is…we thought we were saving him. In actuality, he’s saved us many more times. It’s impossible to come home in a bad mood and stay in a bad mood when there’s a fluffy, happy, blind little dude wagging his tail and bonking in to everything just to get to you and say hello. He’s gotten me out of the house on walks when I thought I was going to crack, and he’s been my friend to hold tight at night when I psyche myself into thinking my house is haunted (yup, PhD student, still freaked out by ghosts). So the fact of the matter is, I don’t know how I’d be getting through my PhD without him.
I’m not advising you to go out and buy a puppy. Just hold on to and appreciate the things that get you through. A PhD is never done alone – it’s collaborative. So take a moment to thank those who, day by day, stay in your corner, whether they have two legs or four. You couldn’t do it without them.