Last weekend my wife, Raina and I walked our 2 year-old, long-haired Chihuahua, Theo, in New York City’s Madison Square Park. It was a beautiful day. The flawless, deep blue sky hovered over us like a suspended Caribbean ocean. Birds sliced through the open air at different heights and angles, while people of all races and sizes criss-crossed through the square enjoying all the delights of Summer. Some enjoyed ice cream or a drink, while others soaked up the conversation. The warm weather sounds surrounding us—the animals, the people, the gentle breeze—all gelled into one muffled, soothing entity.
‘I am astounded by how people are touched, fueled by their pets. Some are motivated in ways they will ever know.’
“It’s amazing what he does to us. To you…” my wife said, unsolicited.
Raina, who admittedly knows me better than anyone, had me curious.
“What, who does?”
She smiled. Then, using a simple thrust of her chin, answered me without words. She was motioning towards Theo. I looked down at the little white, seven-pound animal leading us. He was marching full speed, ears back, towards the dog run. As if sensing we were looking at him he turned back to us without breaking stride. He was wide-eyed. His mouth was hanging open. It looked as if he was smiling, which by this point made it all three of us. Finally, Raina answered my question.
“He gets your senses going. More than you even realize.”
She was right, and since that moment I have been reflecting on her words. Pets, our animals that become members of our families, heighten our perception of the world and inspire us everyday. That day in the dog run, as Theo mixed it up with friends both old and new, Raina and I spoke as usual with many dog owners. Only this time I listened more carefully than I ever had before.
For a young woman named Joanne, who seems to wear the exact same hairstyle as her Poodle, the inspiration is both physical and emotional. Joanne’s story is one that she holds close to her heart. Joanne moved to Manhattan from Columbus, Ohio five years ago. She explained that she was, and has always been, a shy individual by nature. Upon her move to The Big Apple she soon realized that her coyness became magnified by “big city” life, leaving her feeling extremely overwhelmed and intimidated. Not only was she having trouble making friends, it got to the point where she had trouble leaving her apartment.
Then she bought Poppy. It was love at first sight. Immediately Joanne began to feel less alone, less down. The cohabitation was able to mask her feelings of isolation—at least for a little while. Until, as Joanne puts it, that fateful day came. The one when Poppy scratched at the door for the first time.
Her initial feeling of regression was soon overrun by full-blown panic. Her fears of the city, numbed by the focus channeled towards her puppy, again stormed to her mind’s forefront. “House dog,” she said to herself in a knee-jerk reaction. “Poppy will have to just be a house dog.” At this point in the story an embarrassed, shameful smile rolled onto Joanne’s face.
“That’s when I asked myself, is ‘house dog’ even a real term?”
Before she knew it, she and Poppy were outside. Within two minutes they had met their first, and life-long, friends: a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Henry and his handsome owner Gene. Today, Joanne and Gene are married and Poppy and Henry are the best of friends.
We also spoke with Joe while Theo introduced himself to his twelve year-old yellow Labrador, King. “I’m a lyricist,” Joe said. “I write songs for a couple of up and coming bands.” Interestingly, it wasn’t King who Joe referred to as a source of inspiration for his songs. It was Herman.
“My parrot. You got to see this thing,” he said. “He’s like a caged rainbow, full of life. I love listening to him talk. He mimics me; he’ll say, ‘settle down King’ or ‘Honey, crank the AC’ if I’m talking with my wife. It’s hilarious.”
“How does that inspire your songwriting?” I asked, confused.
“His brain is smaller than a golf ball. If he’s able to master the English language than I have no excuses. He keeps me on my toes.”
I am astounded by how people are touched, fueled by their pets. Some are motivated in ways only they will ever know. Others are inspired in ways that will be passed along for the world to see. Lousie, a cute older woman who lives in New York’s Union Square neighborhood, was there walking Muffin, her Yorkshire Terrier. But her true inspiration comes from her four cats. It is with these cats where she finds peace. Nothing in all her life, Louise said, relaxes her like watching her cats sleep. When they sleep, she draws them. When she’s done drawing them, she carves their resting likeness into marble sculptures. These, according to Louise, are crafted for one reason – for the world to relax from her resting cats as she does.
Since Theo arrived two years ago I have always felt this energy, this added dimension he infuses into my life. But I had never looked at it in quite the manner my wife was suggesting. The inspiration that I get from our pet is so strong, so important, that I actually overlook it. I overlook it because it has simply become part of who I am, part of my thought processes, part of my unchanged world. Being inspired by Theo has simply become second nature.
My life, and how Theo affects it, is a combination of all the stories I heard that day. As an author, Theo inspires many of the words I get to share with the world. Yet he inspires me on a private level as well. Each morning I wake up and run my fingers through his fluffy, soft fur as he peacefully sleeps. I watch as his chest, his breaths, rhythmically move my hands up and down. I smile as he sighs or barks from his dreams. My understanding of how physically small he is gives way to my appreciation of how large his personality is. It is here, in this way, that I find inspiration from Theo in my personal life. He motivates me each and every day to appreciate the world and all of the little treasures that come with it.
Adam Gittlin’s debut novel, is a psychological thriller entitled The Men Downstairs.