Joy and Gratitude
When my dear friend Sandra asked me to write an article for this month’s issue of Vestry Papers about gratitude and the joy that pets bring to our ‘single girl’ lives, I thought, Sure, I can channel my inner Carrie Bradshaw. Truth be told, as I sit at my laptop in my apartment, looking out the window, I remind myself that I am, in fact, a single girl living in New York City, albeit different from the protagonist of Sex and the City in many ways. For one, there isn’t a powerfully handsome and successful man calling out to me from the street, who has just arrived in an expensive car with his driver (well, maybe in my imagination). Second, and most relevant, Carrie didn’t have a dog. I’ll spare readers the other differences between me and the fictitious, fashionable, cigarette-smoking, iconic New York City writer.
It was meant to be
Moving on… I adopted my pup, Linus, in May of 2012 and would soon realize just how much he was actually going to rescue me. In a relationship at the time, I was ready for a dog, but browsing petfinder.com only somewhat seriously. Until, that is, one search led me to a tiny, scraggly, big-eared and admittedly not that cute-looking, shih tzu mix puppy. Despite the signs pointing to disappointment on my end, the cliché, “it was meant to be,” was true as I drove back to Baltimore, my home at the time, with Linus in the back seat.
The Bible tells us in Psalm 30:5, that “joy cometh in the morning.” Linus, for me, is a tangible reminder of that truth. Unbeknownst at the time, my personal life was about to change dramatically, and that particular Psalm was going to play a major role. My twelve years in Baltimore City saw me through college and graduate school, the start of a career, eight years with one boyfriend and buying my first home. Charm City holds a special place in my heart and marks the beginning of life with my fiercely loyal and stubborn little rescue pup.
That August, only a few short months after bringing home my “Sweet Babboo,” I lost my Aunt Gerri unexpectedly. This was Linus’s first opportunity to serve as my default therapist. His unconditional love and honest truth, despite my somewhat distracted attention, never wavered. Losing one of my ‘mothers’ was painfully dark, yet somehow the sun continued to rise each morning. As if he knew I needed some extra love, Linus was that very joy that cometh in the morning, arriving with kisses and quirks that reminded me of all I have to be grateful for, even in the midst of sadness.
Through thick and thin
In 2017, I made the painful decision to end the relationship with my boyfriend and move back home to New Jersey. It was an emotional and difficult time, but again, because of Linus, joy did cometh in the morning. Throughout the breakup and tearful goodbye from my first home, my joy was consistently and faithfully present to remind me with zoomies and grumbles for treats, that we would get through it. And to quote another cliché, “learning a lesson from my dog,” Linus was once again the experienced professional. I would say that the gratitude I have for his rescuing me is unimaginable, but I don’t have to imagine it. I experience it.
Joy, literally and figuratively, comes in the morning. When I open my eyes and roll over in bed, I am awakened by loads of kisses, as if Linus is saying “good morning.” The very first thing to greet me after a night of sleep is joy. I am immediately thankful and filled with awe as my scruffy alarm clock helps me start the day with his encouragement and positivity. My tiny rescue dog has been by my side for nearly ten years now. The laughter and genuine happiness he brings me each day never lessen, no matter how many times I’ve seen his quirky behavior on walks or precious snaggletooth-smile or angry growl when breakfast is delayed (and yes, he can tell time).
Since the breakup and move to Jersey, Linus has moved apartments a total of six times, twice to Manhattan. I am happy to be back near my family, and I had been loving life in New York City. But as it often does, sadness shows up and reminds us of the life’s reality, as if to say, Oh wait, not too much happy now.
After nearly two years of fighting cancer, my other ‘mother’ – after all, we are Italian – Aunt Donna, died last year in October. Another goodbye to a strong and lifelong presence in my life, and more sorrow, not easy to overcome. There is a bittersweet (okay, mostly bitter) irony at losing two beautiful souls among others in the past twelve years, and the reminder it brings of the preciousness of life.
A faithful reminder of joy and gratitude
With this emotionally difficult period, begins chapter three of Linus’s book of psychological wisdom and healing. Of course I don’t wish for more sadness, but at the same time, I cannot say I am not grateful for his manifestation of this particular Psalm. For nearly ten years, and I pray ten more, Linus has made joy cometh in the morning. I am truly blessed by my very own faithful reminder of joy and gratitude.
I close with a few more clichés, because there is truth in them. Who rescued whom? Well, if you haven’t discovered it by now, Linus rescued me. He saves my life every day – even with his giant, loud burp after every meal. I have much to be happy and grateful for in this beautiful life, but no more precious reminder of all that life can bring to an individual than Linus. My regret is for other single girls missing the opportunity and love of a rescue pup. Finally, I offer these wise words from W.R. Purche, “everyone thinks they have the best dog, and none of them are wrong.” As a single girl already living in Manhattan with the love of my life, who needs a man!
As I finish this week’s edition of Dogs and the City – Oh wait, I’m not actually the 2021 version of Carrie Bradshaw – I genuinely thank readers for indulging this scruffy and attitudinal glimpse into my life. I’m honored to have been able to write about my joy. And to Linus, this one is for you.
P.S. No, I did not forget the months and months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Who wants to read any more about it? But obviously, Linus was there for that too, throughout quarantine and working from home and shopping for fashionable face masks.
Nicole Mirando works as assistant dean at a New York City graduate school. Actively involved in dog rescue for about ten years, she spends her free time either with her family in New Jersey or with her pup Linus exploring Manhattan. Otherwise, Nicole spends time doing homework as she pursues a doctorate of education alongside her other passion – helping save deserving and unconditionally loving pets in need. This is her first online article.
- Lessons from My Dog: Letting Go by Jeremiah Sierra, ECF Vital Practices blog, October 5, 2015
- Pet Evangelism by Nancy Davidge, ECF Vital Practices blog, March 4, 2011
- The Church Cat by Lisa G. Fischbeck, ECF Vital Practices blog, July 18, 2019
- Pets: Resources from the Episcopal Network for Animal Welfare, an ECF Vital Practices tool