laura packardPeople talk often and feverishly about love at first sight. The lights seem to dim, violins play, deer leap, frogs row and tiny cute birds fly in from out of nowhere just to sing.  For me and my main man, he just looked at me with those dark brown pools of light, started shivering and then peed. That was ten years ago this January and, after scrubbing down my couch, we’ve been best buds ever since. Wow, it’s crazy to think we’ve been tied at the hip for an entire decade.

                No one knows for sure how old Atlas is or even exactly what kind of dog. He looks like a cross between a Rat Terrier and a Jack Russell, and that’s what the animal rescue group out of Savannah told us when they saved him from a high-kill shelter.  And according to his vet records when they neutered him, he was already 2 or 3 when we brought him home . . . making him around 12 to 13 . . . or as my daughter Margot just reminded me, 84 in dog years and has the bladder control to prove it.  I did have a moment of excitement realizing he was now definitely old enough to qualify for Medicare, and those of you with dogs know their monthly pills cost as much as college, but Margot reminded me once again he is just a dog and I need to suck it up and get over it already.    

Now, we may have no idea where Atlas came from but we do know he loves peanut butter, Velveeta cheese, napping and easy Sunday mornings. He dislikes cats, cat hair, cat fur, cat fur balls, cat blankets and cats in general which really stinks for him because we have a really fat one that doesn’t like him, either. He looks great in burnt sienna, ochre and forest green, making him an Autumn (like me) and is most definitely a Sagittarius seeing as he’s masculine, expansive, generous, proud and a great listener.  Not to mention, he has an open disdain for Capricorns (husband) and great love of Aquariuses (me, again).     

Some of you might be wondering how we came up with the name Atlas.  Well, he’s a small dog who thinks he’s really big but in a totally goofy way.  If you’re ever meandering down my street, he’s the dog that will walk right to up to the fire hydrant, only to lift up his leg and pee on an itty bitty leaf. You will also notice how he has a perfect black circle on his back that looks as if it’s a replica of the world that, according to Greek mythology, Atlas was forced by Zeus to hold up for eternity. Oh, and he’s always the one pulling me by the leash and if you got to close to me he’d go all Brad Pitt in Fight Club on you.

Mark Twain once said, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight. It’s the size of the fight in the dog.” There could be no truer statement for my own faithful and fierce companion. He may only weigh in at a lean 16 pounds and measure 29 inches in length, but he still sports the shoulders of a linebacker, the swagger of Jagger and the caustic, but weirdly endearing attitude of Anthony Bourdain (oh, and Tony’s iron clad stomach, his love of beer and obsession with strange, unidentifiable street food.)

Isn’t it scary, though?  To love something that much; the investment of it all.  Not the heart worm, vet bill, dental plan and the small matching monogramed Argyle sweater kind of investment of course, but the emotional risk of loving this small creature without fault, reciprocation or conditions all the while knowing it won’t be for always. 

I know . . . I know . . . he’s only turning 13 or 12, after all.  He’s got a few good years in him left. But seriously, y’all. I don’t know what I’d do without him. He actually enjoys running mindless errands with me and never gets mad when I refuse to pull into the drive-thru at McDonald’s. He always listens when I talk and nods his head, unlike my husband, so I know he’s actually paying attention. He’s my snuggle bunny, my constant companion, my Bravo watching, rainy day loving ‘peep’. He’s there when I write, parent, read, scream, cry and nap and never judges, corrects, interrupts or asks 12 times in 1 minute what’s for dinner. 

He holds me up, not physically of course, but he’s there for me every day. 

And that is anything but a small thing.