How to Give Up

I want to stop trying, but dread having to explain it to everyone else.

Adeline Dimond


Photo by Tim De Pauw on Unsplash

A few nights ago, my friend Michael slept over because the next day we were driving to to the desert to celebrate my 51st birthday with a random group of friends. He slept in my room, I slept in the den. I thought it was a perfect arrangement, but my dog (let’s call him Fish) had a different opinion.

Fish hates men. I knew this. But it wasn’t until an actual human man slept over that I understood just how much Fish hates men. He hates them a lot.

I’ve had Fish for about nine months. I picked him up at the windy and cold Lancaster animal shelter eleven days after my beloved shepherd died, which was probably a bad decision. I should have waited to get a new dog; I should have let myself grieve before I rushed off to scoop up Fish, because we aren’t exactly a match made in heaven. To put it generously, Fish is an emotional wreck. And while I have an infinite amount of love for any animal who shows up in my life, I am also a wreck. Two wrecks navigating the world together is a fun movie concept, but not such a great reality. I’m just not the best person to help Fish, whose mind goes kaboom every time someone walks by the house.

But while we are star-crossed, it also feels like we had no choice but to end up together. Days after my shepherd died, I saw an Instagram video of Fish — who looks like a cross between a baby seal and a vampire bat —wide-eyed and terrified, and felt an irresistible pull. Add an empty house without the click-click-click of dog toenails, without dog hair floating in the sunlight, without the sound of a dog snoring, and our fates were sealed.

Soon after Fish came home, it became clear that a man must have done something truly terrible to him, because he trembled in their presence. And growled. And barked. At every man, all the time. I introduced him to men who agreed to pretend he didn’t exist, and this sort of worked. I’ve had successful dinner parties that included men; Fish eventually stops pacing and passes out, and this is progress.

But a man sleeping over, even in the other room, was something Fish could not get behind, and he made this opinion loudly known, almost all night. There was no calming him, no pack-leadery thing I could…