So many people have had That One Dog in their life. The one that split open their heart and strolled inside and never left. If you’re reading this, you know what I mean, right? Didn’t you just think of yours?
For me, that dog was named Layka.
I want to write about her story, but I don’t know that I can right now. Because as I once told my mother, “I’m not good at summarizing the things that are important to me.” Maybe all you need to know is that Layka was, as they say, my “heart dog.” Quite simply, I thought that I could never love another dog the way I love Layka. With her, it was like my heart was a house full of love, and the walls were always about to burst.
And the problem with that kind of love is that on some days it feels like a blessing, and on other days it feels like a curse. Sometimes it feels like both at once. Because you know that not everyone gets to experience such an enormous, earth-shattering love, and that makes you undeniably lucky, but you also can’t bear the fact that you might not find that kind of love again. And the weight of the love is so much that it can carry you through your whole life on just a mixture of memories and intensity of emotions. It can lift you up to the sun and then drag you down to drowning in the ocean.
Not that long ago, I randomly came across this quote:
“Mom, why do the best people die so soon?”
“When you’re in a garden, which flowers do you pick first?”
“The most beautiful ones.”
Layka was not an old dog when she died. When I heard the news, I was gutted. Every single part of me hurt. At first, I don’t think I was even able to cry. Whatever miserable, painful place I was stuck in, I was way beyond tears. Reeling with grief and feeling like my very cells were sick, I slowly began to heal by making a little video in honor of Layka. (It’s been almost five years, and I don’t know that I’ll ever finish healing, to be honest.)
In the video description, I wrote Layka a short letter. Part of it said, “Layka: Thank you for being the best, most beautiful dog in the whole world… You were my dream dog, the one I had so many adventures with. Early morning walks and long conversations. I treasured the weeks and months that we could spend together, and now I miss you with an ache that’s threatening to split open my body. But I guess even God needed a good dog.”
Although Layka and I didn’t have much time together, she meant the world to me, and I will never stop missing her. She was (and is) my dream dog. I look for pieces of her in other dogs, and when I find them, I feel like breathing is easier and more difficult at the same time. On the one hand, there’s sweet relief, and on the other hand, it’s soft and raw and painful, even now.
I thought that I could never love another dog the way I love Layka. I’ve known a lot of dogs since her, and none of them left paw prints on the deepest part of my heart, the secret, swollen place that only she had ever touched. And yet. Somehow, rather unexpectedly, there’s a new dog in my life, and it seems like he’s stretching my heart out and stepping right in. There will never be another Layka, but just because I might not love another dog in exactly the same way, that doesn’t mean that I can’t love him just as much, right? I sure hope so. I think that we all just want to be brave enough to fall in love again, in so many different aspects of life.
For me, Layka is definitely That One Dog. But now that Ceiba’s here, I’m wondering if maybe there will come a point when my heart will rearrange itself and there won’t only be space for That One Dog, but space enough for Those Dogs. Those Dogs that make our hearts feel like jumping and tumbling with joy and awe.
Maybe. That is, I hope so. I want a heart that believes in second chances (and third, and fourth, and fifth…). I hope that I’ll always be brave enough to fall in love again.
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If you’d like to share with me, I’d really like to hear
about the love(s) of your life. Here’s mine: