It is coming up on two years since Isaac came to live with me. I've been thinking about our relationship and how it's changed and developed over that time. I used to hear people with service dogs talk about how their dogs were like a part of them and I thought I understood that but at the same time, I did not feel that way about Isaac. I loved Isaac. Well, maybe I didn't love him when I first got him, but I liked him a lot from the beginning, and I soon grew to love him. But he didn't feel like a part of me.
It's interesting to me, the relationships we have with our animal companions.
I once had a cat named Eileen, who died eight years ago, that I considered my soul mate. I told people she was my best friend, and she really was, but I feel like she was even more than that. I'm sure it sounds weird to many people to say she was my soul mate, but that's really the best term I can find to describe out relationship.
Cayenne is like a family member that I love a lot. She's not my best friend. She is not my soul mate. But I love her. People often refer to their pets as their babies and maybe she was like my baby when she was younger. But now she is elderly. And she seems elderly. So it doesn't make sense to call her my baby. She doesn't seem like my baby. She doesn't seem like a child. Maybe she seems more like a grandmother. She feels like family, though.
Isaac, I would say now, is like my partner. People with service dogs often use that term. They say things like, "I am partnered with a yellow lab named Isaac."
They also often refer to themselves and their service dogs as teams, saying things like, "I met another service dog team today." It is not inaccurate to say Isaac and I are a team, but that brings to mind something like a sports team and that's not what our relationship is like, not at all.
It's more a partnership, I think. Almost like a marriage. I love Isaac deeply, I feel responsible for caring for him, and I feel like I can trust him to take care of me. It's an intense relationship and probably somewhat codependent, but then, it's designed to be that way, isn't it?
Isaac and I communicate like a couple that's been together for a long time, I think. Longer than two years, really. But I think that has a lot to do with the fact that we are together all the time. Most couples don't spend nearly the amount of time together that Isaac and I do. Also, dogs are really sensitive to body language and I've tried to be very sensitive to Isaac's body language, since he can't communicate verbally. But we can often communicate with just a look. I have a look I give him that means "sit" and he knows that look. He has a look he gives me that means he needs to go out to pee and I know that look.
And we can often anticipate each other's moves and needs and desires. He knows when I need him to pick up something for me. I know when he is thinking of chasing a rabbit. I love how well I know him and I love how well he knows me.
I should add that it took a long time to get to this point. The first year of our relationship was rather rough. I'm told that's common in service dog partnerships. I mean, we liked each other the first year, but we didn't fit together instantly and seamlessly. It took time and work to get to that point.
I'm not sure it's accurate to say he feels like a part of me. But I'd say it's close to that.