I moved to Colorado when I was 23 years old. The plan was to work for the ski resort in Telluride and, after the ski season, return back home to Chicago to get a real job after I had figured it out. Well, I either never figured it out or I really did figure it out…whatever it is, because I still live in Colorado and I’ve transformed my ski bummery into an actual career path and a lifestyle rife with the stereotypes of a happy outdoor life. My face and feet are adorned with a near permanent goggle and flip-flop tan. Skis line my walls. I invest in gear not stocks. I drive a Subaru. And I (finally) have a dog.
It’s been a year of wonderful dog companionship with Bodhi (named after Swayze’s character in Point Break, ‘cause duh). And being a dog dad has been the most rewarding and illuminating year of my life. Now, I am sure you parents of human children are rolling your eyes and saying, “It’s nothing like raising a baby!” First, calm down. Second, did you know that when I stare into my puppy’s eyes, the maternal/paternal bonding hormone oxytocin is released in my brain? It’s the same chemical reaction you get when you look at your kiddo. Third, I’d never compare my puppy to your kid…because Bodhi is far more adorable than the rage-faced mini-terrorist throwing a tantrum in the back of your minivan. And I’ve never had to listen to Kidz Bop while trying to answer questions like, “Dad, why is there sky?”
The adorable nature of my Siberian husky has led to many strange moments. I find it perfectly acceptable to hug him and, in a high-pitched cooing baby voice, exclaim, “Oooh, I love you so much I could squeeze you ‘til your head pops off.” I overheard someone say to their pooch, “Your eyeballs are so cute I want to scoop them out with a spoon and eat them.” My reaction was not disgust or astonishment; I thought it would be a good idea to add whipped cream. These are called dimorphous expressions, or cute aggressions; extremely positive experiences and appraisals that produce intense positive reactions while simultaneously producing expressions normally reserved for negative emotions. Yeah, it’s super weird. So weird, in fact, that after conducting a Yale University study about dimorphous expressions, a group of scientists basically said: Yeah, it’s a real thing and we don’t totally understand it, but that husky is so cute we would definitely eat its brain like it was a birthday cake.
Now, that is not to say I haven’t been so angry at my pupper that actual murder didn’t seem like a viable option. Take for instance, Bodhi’s first campout. High on a secluded and beautiful mountain pass, we found a serene campsite amongst decades-old aspens. We prepared dinner as the aqua-blue sky melted into the tangerine preserves of the setting sun. But where was Bodhi amongst all this beauty? Bodhi was preoccupied in a thicket of fallen tree limbs, chomping on the excrement of some unknown and terribly ignorant previous camper. Yes, that’s right. He was eating man turds, actual real-life human shit. Apparently, some Brad had decided to deuce on top of the ground rather than in a cat hole, and strewn his used toilet paper on branches as if it were party streamers at the world’s worst effin’ party. The buntings of used TP by the way, yeah, they were sunny-side up. Less than two hours into Bodhi’s first camping adventure, I donned leather gloves and a handful of napkins I thankfully had in my car to clean the booty Play-Doh from his molars. It was decidedly not a dimorphous moment.
But, hours later, I was cuddled up with him in a tent, albeit after some intense DIY tooth brushing. Why? Because even with doodoo breath he’s the best. And to show him that, along with the endless boops on his nose, scratches behind his ears, and outdoor adventures we share, I will literally empty my piggy bank for him to an absurd degree. I have a chew toy graveyard, which consists of the remnants and remains, the plush limbs and innards, of about a dozen former chomp knickknacks. But I still buy them whenever I see one that looks cute even though Bodhi’s favorite playthings are a couple of old tree stumps in my backyard.
After using an old bed sheet to act as a couch cover, I upgraded to an Orvis quilted throw blanket with a grip tight backing because it’s toughness seemed to match Bodhi’s machismo. And, though I used to sleep on it, that bed sheet just didn’t seem quite comfy enough for him; him who I’ve seen take naps on rocks and in dirt. And the upgrading continued. I figured the $20 Amazon-whatever-brand car seat cover had lived out its worth; the Orvis Windowed Hammock Seat Protector caught my eye. I’m pretty sure it is made out of 100 percent angel feathers because it’s the softest, snuggliest thing I’ve ever touched…that is, aside from Bodhi’s ears. The point is, there is no end to the spoiling. Bodhi gets new gear and new toys because I can’t stop asking myself, “oooh, would the pup dig this?” in the same cooing voice I headlock hug him with.
But what’s been most amazing about one year of pupper fatherhood has been the immeasurable expansion of my capacity to love. And that love shows up in a myriad of ways. I have more photos of him sleeping than an IG influencer has bathroom selfies. I talk about him more than a guy in a tank top talks about CrossFit. Every single day, at least one time a day, he will do something that will make me belly laugh. I am constantly wondering if I am giving him enough: time outside, training balanced with playtime, boundaries and freedom, et al. I’ve reorganized my work and play schedule around him, reevaluate what a ski day or bike adventure or run looks like because I want to get back to him. Bodhi’s helped me curb selfishness and reactive emotion while amplifying my joy. He’s redefined what love is. Sometimes that love shows up as a paw on my shoulder, a snout laid upon my lap. And sometimes it shows up as my arm shoved in his mouth, up to my elbow in human tuckus spackle. But anyway you cut it, it’s all love. Woof woof, pals.