I talk a lot of shit about my dog. I (mostly lovingly) call him names, and mock his barks ala that Spongebob chicken meme. But I will ardently defend him to anyone outside of my household who does the same. Make no mistake: I love this weird little furry alien we wound up with.
Because Oscar is a rescue, we know only a certain number of things with him. He's about six years old and his linage is a mystery (though there are almost certainly elements of Jack Russell terrier, bulldog, teddy bear and chaos in his genetic material). He is terrified of pretty much everything but will defend Ryan and I from the very things that scare him.
He is, overall, a pretty good dude. I mean - look, he's also kind of terrible sometimes. He's bitten both Ryan and me and he has some weird internal alarm that goes of at an indeterminate time every night and doesn't stop until one of us goes upstairs. But he's also a rescue. And I relate to that.
I'm not a Dickensian rescue. That's too romantic. I wasn't even ever in the foster care system. That would be more convenient in many ways for my brand of dysfunction. My baggage is pretty boring: single mom, trailer park/welfare upbringing, rural southern poverty, all the colors of abuse and neglect in the worst rainbow in the world, addiction, death, mental illness, conservative religion, blah blah blah.
Only now can I recognize and wrangle my shit. I couldn't always. I was a flaming train wreck for most of my twenties. I made spectacular mistakes that cost me friends, jobs, money, and innumerable other resources and relationships. You might think you've hit rock bottom after you have, on the tail end of a coke binge, screamed "Get on my level or get the fuck out of my way", and then proceeded to fall down a flight of stairs, but there's always further to dig if you care to try.
The point is: I don't know what Oscar's life was like before he met me. I don't much care. I'll love him until one of us dies. Even when it isn't easy. Even when he barks until I want to bite him. Even when he cuddles up between my wife and I and then farts so pungently that it clears the room. Because I have been a poorly behaved mess and would not have survived without the patience and grace of people in my life.
To be clear, Oscar offers a lot more in return. He's a top notch cuddler, and a pretty good companion on walks. He is a terribly coworker since his work ethic is frankly abyssal but working from home makes you less picky and overall, he's pretty good company. Most of all though, he's done a lot for my mental health. When I forget to eat, he reminds me that he's hungry too. When I get trapped in my own head, he takes me on a walk through the park. He sleeps in the space between my ankles most nights, and his snores (often in harmony with those of my wife) are the lullabies that sing me to sleep.
I wonder a lot what he thinks about. Does he dream? Does he like us? I think he probably does. And I'm not always the easiest person to like. Maybe it's similar for him: unconditional love, even when appreciation and affection are a challenge. Maybe I'm wrong about that. Possibly, I'm just that two legged idiot who bags up his poops. I wouldn't be surprised either way.