“Your dog is in your mate space.” These were some of the first words out of the mouth of the Curandera whom I serendipitously met on my road trip in Hot Springs, Arkansas. She said this before I even told her that I had a dog not so patiently waiting for me outside in Princess Leia the Prius. I laughed politely, but inside I felt a swell of panic. The back of my throat burned and my heart raced. What if this were true? Was I destined to live a life alone, just me and Yoda? Was I becoming the modern day equivalent of the stereotypical spinster cat lady?
Well here’s the thing, if there is such a thing as a mate space, then at that time Yoda was most definitely in it. When I landed in Hot Springs, I was in the midst of the deepest existential crisis I had ever known. At that point Yoda and I had already been driving aimlessly around the country for 3 months. I didn’t have a job, a boyfriend, a home, or a plan. The only constant in my life was Yoda. When everything else in my life had failed me, my dog hadn’t. He seemed to understand what I needed when my panic attacks would begin. When my heart would start racing and I found my mind whirling into a place of complete terror about the state of my life, Yoda would nuzzle his forehead into my chest, snuggle in my lap, or demand a hike, somehow knowing that the crisp air and brisk walk would help me snap out of it. He’d press his back against mine in bed, providing me with a sense of security as I drifted off to sleep. When the tears were flowing, he’d tease me with his stuffed coati toy and make me laugh. My Yoda really does have the Force, and he used it well on our road trip.
I was recently dating a guy named “Brian.” On one of our first dates, Brian had made a comment about not wanting to date any crazy dog ladies. Was he thinking I might be one? The Curandera’s prophecy about Yoda in my mate space was haunting me yet again. I decided in that moment that I would downplay the significance Yoda has in my life. Brian briefly met Yoda 2 times. Although he had claimed he’s a dog person, he shrunk away from Yoda and wouldn’t pet him out of concern that Yoda’s hair might trigger allergies. He called Yoda “Hey Dog” instead of using his name. Due to Yoda’s severe separation anxiety, I have a unique situation of not being able to leave him home alone. So Yoda’s second home in Austin has been a couple blocks away at a dog-sitter’s house. I made sure Yoda was there whenever Brian would pick me up for dates, ensuring they wouldn’t have to encounter each other. The couple of times that Brian asked about Yoda, I gave a short answer and then quickly changed the subject. I saw a lot of potential in Brian, and I didn’t want to blow it by him discovering how important Yoda really is to me.
When my mom and I landed in Paris a couple weeks ago I found my jet lag was giving me delirious dreams. One of those dreams was so visceral, so crazy, and so embarrassing that I find myself still thinking about it. I dreamt that I had a conversation with Yoda and that he was telling me that he is a man trapped in a dog’s body. He begged me to help him escape. In the dream I went to the Curandera in Arkansas and begged her to release him so that I could be with my soul mate. I woke up mortified – the Curandera must be right – I’d be alone forever because I had put my dog in my mate space. But then, as I digested the dream a bit more, I realized that wasn’t the case at all. Dreams sometimes carry important messages, and I think I know what this was telling me. I’ve been so worried about Yoda being in my mate space, that I was willing to almost deny his existence to demonstrate to Brian that I’m not a crazy dog lady. It’s not surprising that last night Brian and I realized that things weren’t working out between us. From my end, by pretending Yoda wasn’t significant, I wasn’t being authentically me. When one isn’t authentically oneself, a relationship is doomed to failure. My God, I’ve been writing about the importance of embracing my inner-cowgirl, but last night I realized that by not being authentic with Brian, I wasn’t practicing what I’ve been preaching.
I realize this morning that what I have learned from the Curandera, the dream and Brian, is that I’m not a crazy dog lady. I just happen to love my dog. And anyone who is a true animal lover can understand that dogs really are members of one’s family. Yoda and I are a package deal. He’s not in my mate space, but he definitely has a huge chunk of my heart. And I’m never again going to hide that fact from a man.
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