A few months ago my first book, Finding Mr. Righteous, was released on Kindle and hardcover. A Christian-in-name-only, I dated freely in spite of my insecurities. An Atheist. A Catholic. A Quaker. A Preacher. A Jew. Some gave me the answers I yearned for, while others left me with more questions. As my star rose in the political movement, my quest to find my Mr. Righteous led me down a path of religious confusion and discovery. Will I find my soul mate or save my soul? Is it too much to ask for both?
In the excerpt below exclusively for BlogHer readers, I tell the story of how one "man" finally opened me up to the possibility of God. Enjoy!
I’ll never forget the first time I saw him. We met online in 1999 and I fell for him instantly. He had the most beautiful brown eyes. Then he was just known as number 81 by the Washington Humane Society. He was a beagle and chocolate lab mix. The adoption process took a bit of time. When I visited him at his short-term foster home, I sat on the floor and he came right up to me and licked my face. It was true love.
Even though I had only met him once, I fought for him. The woman fostering him didn’t seem to want to give him up despite having me go through the process. She even changed his name from Brandon (dumb) to Player (dumber). It was obvious to me that he was a Buster. I think it was more likely that she just didn’t care about anyone’s schedule but her own. Four days before Christmas I showed up unannounced and took Buster home. He was now my Buster.
Since it was near Christmas, my sister was visiting my mom and stepdad, who lived nearby. They were all waiting in the car when I left Buster’s former foster home with Buster following behind me. On the drive back to my mom and stepdad’s house, my sister and I sat in the backseat and Buster sat on my lap.
“You’re going to have no problem getting a boyfriend now!” my sister said.
Not two seconds later, when we were stopped at a light, a guy in the car next to us looked over at Buster staring out the window and smiled.
“See! I told you!” my sister exclaimed. It was nice to think about, but even I knew it wouldn’t be that easy.
The difference between Chris the Atheist and Joe the Catholic was most pronounced when it came to how they dealt with Buster. Chris was a cat person. But having one view wasn’t enough for him. He had to denigrate the opposing view. Chris’s cat versus dog views were like his views on religion. It wasn’t enough to just accept that some people are religious and some people are not. You had to be an atheist or a true believer. And if you were a true believer, you were ignorant.
Chris talked disdainfully about how when scared, a dog’s tail involuntarily covered its genitals. “How can anyone respect an animal that does that?” he said.
My reaction to this was “who cares?” To make his case against dogs, no reason was too small.
Years after we broke up, I’m still haunted thinking about the time I spent away from Buster to spend time with Chris. I frequently would drop him off at my mom’s house for a night or two, so he wasn’t really alone. I never left him alone overnight by himself. But it was time I’ll never get back. I’m also haunted by the fact that I chose to spend time with a person who didn’t love me as I was.
Unlike humans, a dog’s best quality is that it forgives easily, even when we don’t forgive ourselves.
Buster liked Joe. I think Joe also liked Buster. He never complained when Buster slept with us or when he wanted to sit between us on the couch. Joe was a dog person. During most of the time we dated, his dog, Minnie, a German shepherd mix, lived with his ex-girlfriend until he moved to an apartment that allowed dogs.
Unfortunately, Minnie and Buster did not get along. Before Minnie came back to live with Joe, I frequently brought Buster to his apartment. He was well behaved, and I wasn’t as guilt-ridden about spending time away from home. When Minnie was able to live with Joe, I was back to dropping Buster off at my mom’s house. We didn’t date that long after that.
When Buster was three or four years old, the veterinarian discovered he had a heart murmur. She recommended he get an EKG, which would cost more than $500. I put it off for what I thought was several months, but I’m ashamed to admit now that it may have been at least a year. The EKG confirmed the murmur was getting worse. She pre- scribed a medicine that he would need to take every day. It was a small pill, but not small enough. I could cover it in peanut butter, hide it in a Snausage, or wrap it in a piece of cheese and half the time I would find the pill, clean as a whistle, sitting next to an empty dog dish. Some- times I would try to feed it to him again with a new disguise, but many times I gave up and vowed to do better the next day.
One of my favorite things about Buster was the way he greeted me when I came home. One day I got home from work and Buster didn’t come to the door. I walked around the corner and found him sitting on the daybed in the gym area of my townhouse.
“Hey, silly, what are you doing?” I said to him.
The sound of my voice must have given him the energy he needed, because he jumped off the bed. I put on his collar and leash for a walk to the mailbox. He was walking kind of slow, which I chalked up to maybe just waking up from a nap. I unlocked the mailbox and pulled out a bunch of junk mail. I looked down and Buster was unsteady on his feet and then sort of fell down.
“Little boy, are you still tired?” I asked him.
He just looked up at me with his big brown eyes and wagged his tail.
A few weeks later we were at the vet again. The vet recommended getting an X-ray and another EKG. She called me to the hallway where the X-rays were on the wall.
“He definitely had a cardiac event since the last time we looked at him,” she said.
“You mean like a heart attack?”
“Yes, though we don’t know the severity of it. We need to keep an eye on it and try some different medications.”
My eyes welled up with tears.
After several trials of different medications, the vet recommended I take Buster to a cardiologist. By this time, his belly was filling up with fluid from the extra exertion his heart was going through. I would position pillows for him so he could lay with the front of his body elevated, releasing some of the pressure the fluid put on his lungs.
The cardiologist did an ultrasound on Buster’s heart and confirmed the vet’s diagnosis.
“Unfortunately, we’re looking at end-stage cardiac disease.”
I felt like I was kicked in the stomach. End stage? How could this be the end? Buster was barely ten years old. And I had only had him for eight and a half years.
“Is there anything you can do?” I asked, holding back tears while Buster looked at me with his big, brown eyes.
“Well, if he were a human, this is when we would be talking about a heart transplant. At this point, all we can do is make him more comfortable and make sure he isn’t subject to any unnecessary exertion. Do you have stairs in your house?”
“Yes, it’s a three-story townhouse,” I said apologetically.
I wanted to get back to talking about a heart transplant, knowing it wasn’t a really possibility.
“He really shouldn’t be going up and down stairs. I would carry him as much as you can. I can also drain some of the fluid in his belly in order to make him more comfortable.”
“OK,” I said.
Before the procedure, I took Buster outside to go to the bathroom. I watched him meander around the small patch of grass. He moved slower, but I never heard him whimper in pain. I decided we could get through this.
We went back inside and they drained the excess fluid, which amounted to nearly four pounds, from Buster’s belly. The cardiologist said I should keep an eye on the circumference of his belly to keep track of how quickly the fluid would come back. When he came trot- ting out of the room, he seemed to have a spring in his step. I saw a glimpse of my old, playful Buster.
If you enjoyed this excerpt, I hope you'll consider ordering Finding Mr. Righteous and follow me on my dating and spiritual journey!
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