Three years ago November, Zach and I were married. We settled into our home and started our life together. Fast forward to April…after school one day one of my students walks in with a blanket over top of something in her arms. I say, “Is there something I need to see under there?!” Implying very much that I hoped it was a baby animal of some sort and wanted to see it. She pulled off the blanket and there was the cutest puppy ever.

“We have six of these. We’re giving them away for free in two weeks.” I took a picture on my phone and sent it to Zach and my brother.

Zach responded, “If you want one, sure!” Of course leaving me to make the final call. I wasn’t sure we were ready for a dog. I didn’t know much about being a dog owner. I wasn’t sure we could afford a dog. My mind raced with all of the reasons we shouldn’t get a dog yet.

Then came the response from my brother, “Get his a@@!””

Mal's Face

I laughed and then decided that I’d take one.  Though that was April, Mal was born over President’s Day weekend. So we always celebrate his birthday during out long weekend.

We’ll get him a special treat and take him for a long walk this weekend. Possibly to the dog park if the weather is as beautiful as it has been.

I can’t even remember our home without Mal in it. He is part of our family. I love him unbelievable amounts. I’ve never had a pet like Mal. I’ve never been so close to a dog. He’s so special.

He’s taught me a few things and I thought I’d share them here:

1. Excercise is a blessing–It may seem silly, but I seriously feel like I’ve learned from Mal how to appreciate the opportunity to get out and move. I still don’t love going to the gym. As much as I love(have a girl crush on ) Jillian Michaels, I still hate to put in a DVD and workout, but I’ve learned to love to walk. When I’m at work and it is beautiful outside, I can’t wait to get out and walk in it, breath it in, and maybe jog a little beside Mal. Mal loves to get out and run. Like loves it. He finds such joy and it’s actually inspiring to me. I’ve learned to love that kind of exercise and to stop punishing myself for missing out on the gym and just loving being outside.

2. Find joy in the little things–If we so much as say the word “walk” Mal quite literally can’t get to the door fast enough. If we tell him to get his bone he will run around like crazy and get his bone and then show it off. He wags his tail if you so much as talk to him. He wags his tail if he gets dinner scraps. These little things always make us laugh. He has taught us even more to find joy in the little day-to-day simple things.

3.How to be a friend–Mal is one of my best friends. We are not the same species. He can’t communicate the same way that I can. But there is something there. He understands me. He has seen me through some of the worst times. He was with me when my grandpa passed away and saw me through those tears. He laid with me for four days when I lost our baby last summer. Without being able to use words or other typical means of comforting another friend, he makes sure that I know he’s there. Being there sometimes is all someone needs. Not necessarily physically, but emotionally. In our lives, we don’t always see eye to eye with those that we have relationships with (speak the same language), but we can still support those we love and care about. We can still see them as people with value and worth. Mal loves me even though he doesn’t understand me. Yes, I feed him and provide him with a super spoiled life…but I don’t think that’s what makes him love me. I think he loves me because I truly believe that animals are more aware than we are. He knows that people are worthy of friendship…regardless of opinions, choices, or how we look/dress.


4. Be excited about others–I used to think that Mal wouldn’t protect me in case of an intruder (just another reason I need to continue practicing my shot :).(Lately, though, Mal has started to show me that he is more protective than I thought.) I’ve always doubted he would protect me because he’s excited when anyone new comes along. We will be out on a walk and he happily trots over to make a new friend be it a person or another animal. If you come to our house to visit, he’ll be as happy as can be to see you. He may not know you…but he will greet you with as much excitement as he gives me when I come home. What a way to live life, right? To see every person in the grocery store, at work, or at church as a potential friend. Someone who could grow to care about you? What would the world start to look like if we all saw things through those eyes?

5. Unconditional Love–I’ve told you that Zach and I don’t really fight anymore. I can’t fully take the credit for that shift in our marriage. Our dog loves us. Mal loves both of us, even if one of us has made the other upset. He will not pick sides. He will either pace back and forth anxiously or he will remove himself from the situation entirely. However, he gets worked up. He gets really anxious when voices are raised or people are angry. One time Zach and I got in a fight and Zach was going to “plow a field” (that’s when Zach needs to go for a walk to cool offf…I hate this) Mal followed Zach out the door. He wouldn’t come back in, but he wouldn’t walk with Zach so we sat there trying to get him to come back inside. We finally realized how silly it was that we were totally cooperating to get Mal back inside. Zach no longer needed to take his walk and I was no longer upset. We realized that it was too upsetting to Mal when we fought. He loves us both too matter who is wrong.

He loves me if I don’t take him for a walk because I’m too tired. He loves me if I don’t share my food with him (Zach’s nicer about this than I am most of the time). He loves me even if I ignore him. He loves me if he gets left outside all day. He loves me even though I yelled at him. He loves Zach, too. And he loves me even when I hurt Zach’s feelings.

When we leave the house, Mal props himself up onto his hind legs and puts his front paws on the window sill and watches us walk away from the window. When he hears the car pulling up, he props up and watches for us to come in. It brings a smile to my face every time. Oh…what a blessing it is to be loved by a dog.

Happy birthday to our Mal.