Essay No. 2 | The Sheepdog's Story / by Rachel Nordgren

The Sheepdog's Story: An Essay from Rachel Nordgren
This is the second post in a new series I'm writing: Essays. They're more freeform, memoir-ish at times, reflective pieces. You can find the first post, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet, here.

If we're going to be friends, there's something you need to know.

I love my dog.

Hans and I had just gotten back from a walk with Banjo when he asked to pursue a serious relationship with me, and I pointed to Banjo and told Hans that the dog and I, we were a package deal.

Maybe that's how I need to preface all of my relationships...

The dog and I, we are a package deal.

If you're going to be my friend, you should probably get used to me planning get-togethers based on whether or not I can bring Banjo. I'm probably going to bring him to your house. If you're going to follow me on Instagram or Snapchat, you're in for fur mama posts galore. If you come over to our house, there's a 115% chance you will walk away with Banjo hair on your clothes.

So, you should probably know his story.

I still remember the first time I saw Banjo at the shelter...planted firmly at the front of his cage, tail wagging, to make sure I spotted him.

I remember the first night I brought him home, and how he whimpered because he was scared and confused, and how I dragged all my covers onto the floor and curled up next to his kennel to comfort him.

And there have been so many times when he's curled up next to me when I've been scared or confused.

When I was overseas, Banjo stayed with my parents. His ears would perk up every time I skyped home, and he would sniff around behind the computer desk to try to find me. When I walked in the door after being gone for 6 weeks, he couldn't contain himself. He whined, jumped, licked, and about pawed me to death.

He always makes people smile. ALWAYS.

When Hans and I first started dating, Hans wasn't too thrilled about having to share my affections with a dog. I believe he rather resented Banjo at first. But several months into our marriage, I caught Hans letting Banjo up on the couch.

Now? Banjo spends almost every night curled up on the bed, we take him on volunteer hospice visits together, and he and Hans roughhouse together on the daily.

We've met so many families in our neighborhood because their kids wanted to pet Banjo when we're out on a walk. Curbside conversations have sprouted into friendships.

He is so gentle with small children, even when they flop all over him and pull his ears.

The other main man in my life, my dad, loves Banjo more than words can describe. One of my favorite pictures from our wedding day is the three of us with big goofy grins in our backyard.

When we road tripped to Galveston two years ago, he simply adored the beach and going camping. I'd never seen him run so much or sleep so hard.

Except, maybe for the time we went to Colorado last summer, and he discovered mountains for the first time. When we were packing up on the last morning, he took off down the sidewalk like an absolute boss, ignoring all our calls to come back. Hans and I couldn't stop laughing at his determination to never leave the mountains. He teetered between elation and exhaustion for four days straight.


Car rides are his favorite.

Peanut butter jars are his favorite.

Basically, just being a dog is his favorite.

Our bed is just low enough that he can stick his big furry face into mine every morning. His tail thump-thump-thumps against the wall because he's so excited for the day and he can't wait for me to get up.

He's stolen my heart and given so much joy in return. He is one in a zillion million, and I'll love him until the day he closes those big brown eyes for the last time.