Lessons from my dog

I don't know what we, as humans, ever did to deserve dogs. The saying "man's best friend" doesn't do their loyalty or love justice, in my opinion. Growing up, I've had four dogs and I have a place in my heart for all of them. But there was one dog who -- as dramatic as this sounds -- saved my life. His name was Jack.

Jack came into my life when I was in eighth grade. I remember that the day we brought him home, they put him in a little box-crate for transportation and he kept popping out of the lid. (Hence the name: Jack in the box.) He was a ball of energy and fluff and would nip at my ankles. He really woke up our two other dogs that we had at the time. The oldest, Max, definitely gave us that look of "Really? Another puppy?"

Jack was a chubby, fluffy little goober. He had silly crooked teeth and a very dramatic howl that he would torment my family with if I left him at home for more than five minutes. (We were best buds.) Later in his life, Jack fell very suddenly and unexpectedly blind. He was about seven or eight. I remember realizing he was blind when we were running through the house and he would ricochet off the walls of the hallway, jostled forward by the other dogs. He'd run headlong into the couch, back up and shake it off and try again. After an appointment with the vet, they confirmed: yup, blind. But he still had that goofy grin on his fuzzy little face. It never slowed him down. It never made him mope.

Jack passed away when he was ten years, one month and one day old. It was tax day, and for some reason that stuck out to me as a detail to remember. Three years later and I still think about him a lot. He was the sweetest, cuddliest dog I've ever met and loved my more than I had ever been loved in my life at a time when I really, really needed to be loved. When he was sick, I learned how to place a dog IV and we would have an hour a night doing SUBQ fluids. He had a bed next to mine where he padded off to sleep, tucked under covers and with his head on a pillow like a small child. I had jingle bells on my slippers so he could follow me around the house without running into things or falling down the stairs. He was everything, everything and taught me so much.

First, love unconditionally. Who cares if you think it makes you look dumb, LOVE SOMEONE AS BIG AS YOU CAN. No matter how new or how old the love is, it should be the most important thing in your life. Everything else is negotiable. Each day spent in love is a day we must count ourselves lucky. What a miracle it is to be loved and to be in love at all in the first place. Let them know you love them as often as you can; don't ever let them question for a second where your heart is. Love them when it's hard, love them when it's frustrating, love them even when you're scared to lose them. Tight hugs, lots of kisses.

Next, stay curious. Try new things, explore new places. Don't let fear or circumstance make you hesitate to step outside of your comfort zone. Look at everything like you're seeing it for the first time, like it may be the last time. Say yes, thank you. Be confident in what you say and do, even if you have to fake it -- even if you're running into walls. Never give up. Never quit. When you fall, back up, shake it off, and try again.

And of course, be happy. The most important thing Jack (or "Little Bear" as I often called him) taught me was to not feel sorry for myself. There are so many things he went through when he got older and never for a second did it slow him down. Even sick, and blind, he'd spend hours running away from me in the snow, kicking up little snowballs when he heard me come close to try and grab him, always with that goofy grin that only dogs and certain boys can manage. He loved to play fetch, even if he couldn't always find the ball. He loved to have visitors, even if he couldn't see them. He loved to eat and get his belly rubbed and go on car rides. It didn't take a lot to make him happy, as it doesn't take a lot to make most dogs happy. Simple things were enough. Being with the humans he loved was enough. I will never forget that.

Happy 13th birthday Little Bear.

Joshua tree house, day 2

Bridgewater, VA, USA
Somehow, day two of our weekend in the tree house was able to top the first night. Another day where the weather was beautiful and our temporary little home in the woods was exactly what we were hoping for, and more: it was bright and cheery, and the river was alive right outside the front door. We were living up in the trees, where the sun reflected rippled patterns from the water on the ceiling next to the skylight above our bed, and we could watch the moon from a warm outdoor bath filled with bubbles as the night slid carefully behind a sunset that used every shade the sky can hold. (Honestly, check out the last few pictures.) The weekend was, simply put, everything.

When we woke up, we took advantage of the awesome outdoor hot tub to warm up for the day. I ate cake as Peter drank his tea and read, and the sun started to shift solidly to morning between the branches. Later in the day, we went kayaking and broke through the bit of ice that had gathered farther down the river along the banks, and then we found a long cable swing that went out over the water. That was a lot of fun -- when you got high up enough, you'd swing so far over the river that you could see all the way down until it bent away in either direction. And then, because it was now our new favorite way to start and end the day, at sunset we got back into the hot tub (after Peter decided to take a quick dip into the very cold river) and watched the bluest sky catch fire with pinks and golds as the thinnest moon took the place of the sun. The pictures don't do the sunset justice, but it's close enough to still make me desperately, desperately miss it. Oh man, and it's only Wednesday.

Revisit Day 1.

Joshua tree house, day 1

Bridgewater, VA, USA
This past weekend was the best weekend of my life, to date. Peter and I had the opportunity to stay in a beautiful -- which isn't nearly a big enough word -- tree house next to a river in Bridgeport, Virginia. It's called the Joshua Tree House and this place had to have been built with magic. The tree house was so warm and cozy, with the most amazing woodwork (mahogany!), an outdoor tub (SO WARM!), a fireplace (EVEN WARMER!!), a skylight above the bed in the loft (STARS!!!!), and a deck that practically hung right over the water (!!!!!!!!!!) which must've been the river whitenoise machine companies go to when they want to record babbling riverbeds because damn that sound was peaceful (PEACEFUL!!!!!!!).

Somehow, we also lucked out and had a very warm weekend for the middle of January -- it was in the 50's, almost 60 degrees, which meant we also got to go kayaking. So yes, it was nice, and we had a lot of fun. I wanted to share some of my favorite pictures from our weekend, because now I'm plugged back into the real world, the government is shutdown, it's a Monday and I woke up to a parking ticket on my car. But at least I can look at these pictures and remember how nice the past three days were. I'll share pictures from day 2 soon.

By the way, if you're ever interested in a good AirBNB, might I recommend the coolest treehouse ever?

Check out day 2.


For the past few years, my New Year's resolutions have become very broad. I find that I do a much better job upholding them if I don't narrow down my resolution to one very specific habit I'm trying to correct, but instead look at a bigger picture. Not only am I more likely to work at the resolution -- because fear of failure is less severe -- but I find that I'm much more likely to succeed, to look back at the year and think, "Yeah, okay, I feel like I accomplished that."

Going into 2018, I am feeling a lot of things. This past year was a wild year of ups and downs, And, honestly, kind of difficult to believe on a national scale. (If someone were to have explained 2017 to you five years ago, would you have believed them or thought it was some terrible SNL sketch?) Personally, a lot of really, really wonderful things fell into place for me. Globally, a lot of shit went down. It was a hard balance of happiness and stress and excitement and grief. But it's shown me, through good and bad times, exactly what I want to do with my time now.

My 2018 New Year's resolution is to live my life with greater intention. I want to spend my time, my money, and my energy in more meaningful ways. I want to get to the end of each day and have a sense of accomplishment -- whether through doing something to work toward my personal goals, or cleaning/de-cluttering some aspect of my life, or even just making someone smile.

In 2018, I want to collect more memories than I do things. I want to let go of everything that is weighing me down --  both the literal and figurative.

I want to take more pictures of things I love. I want to drink more water, eat healthier. I want to make sure I tell the people I love that I love them, every day. I want to reach out more to friends, make time to have fun. I want to look for things I can do for others; I want to think about how fortunate I am to have the life I have now, and to be more thoughtful in those moments where I feel down.

I had a feeling that I was going to make 2017 a good year, despite the dark cloud of, you know, "the world" that seemed to be hanging over my head last January. It feels like a selfish thing to say, but for me, 2017 was the biggest year of change, growth, and happiness. I have to remember to stay focused on how this past year was a very difficult year for many, many people politically speaking, and to not let forget to stay vocal about that. But I think my happiness has, if anything, made me more inspired to work for the peace of others' lives as well: 2017 has awoken within me a strength I didn't know I had. I hope I get to do great things with it in 2018.

See ya, 2017. Thank you for your many tests and opportunities. Thank you for pushing me to grow and not going easy on me. Thank you for the gentle moments that I've come to appreciate most of all.

9 Months

A little over a year ago, something happened under the November-cold silver stars to change everything in my life. I stood on the crooked sidewalk in front of a large house that glowed yellow from the windows. On the front porch was this boy who was on the phone with his mom. The first thing I heard was his laugh. It was freezing outside, I was nervous, and when he realized I was coming up to his front door, he said into the phone, "I'll call you back, I think the girl who's interviewing is here."

He smiled at me, offered me his hand as a hello, and when he noticed I kept tucking my nose under my scarf to stay warm, opened the door and told me to come on in. I don't know when exactly I knew I was in for it, but I think it happened right around the time that smile of his hit me.

It's funny what happens when you try to fight back against the inevitable. Three months of living together, working really hard to permanently categorize one another as "friend" fell in on itself on a Sunday night in the middle of March. The collapse began with a knock on a bedroom door, a rushed confession mutually met, and a kiss goodnight that tipped us over a precipice we couldn't come back from. Once we started, we couldn't stop the fall.

But, god, what a fall.

Nine months, and I'm still crazy over this one. Every day I am hit with how fortunate I am that life pushed me to where I am now. The coincidences that got me to that front porch with that boy standing on it, waiting for me, are almost difficult to believe. We were both worried about the risk we took of beginning this thing together, but it's worked out. It's more than worked out. He is the best bad idea I've ever had.

Every day I love him more. It's ridiculous how happy he makes me, how simple it is for him to fold me into laughter. It doesn't matter how hard a day I've had, or how stressful my week has been, he can always get me to smile. He makes me feel not invincible, but capable--like I can take on any problem without worry (though I usually have many, he helps me brush them aside like old, annoying cobwebs I forgot to clean up). No matter how big or scary or impossible-seeming a task, he has this way about him that lifts everything up and asks, "Why not?" in the most charming and goofy way.

If I think I can't do it, he grins and dares why not? There is nothing that cannot be done with him at my side as my partner. It is incredible and nearly impossible to describe. It is a miracle to witness the things his hands can touch and make better, and I am lucky to be counted among that list. Plus, he tells the best fart jokes.

He is so good, and he is so strong. He is something like home, but god, so so much more. Thank you for nine incredible months. I'm ready for all the rest that will follow, and whatever they may bring.

Latest Instagrams

© Erica Crouch. Design by Fearne.