Sometimes I think about being in love again. I've been married to three men I loved, but I divorced each because eventually the negatives outweighed the positives. I'm not clueless about relationships — I know they're all about communication and compromise.
And then, last week, unexpectedly, I fell in love. With a girl named Lisa. I took one look at her and she smiled before I'd even introduced myself. She leaned in and kissed me right on the mouth and my heart went into my throat.
I've never believed in love at first sight. To me, love was something that grew over time. But with Lisa, I was immediately smitten. She was the first partner I felt I could love unconditionally. Lisa, by the way, is a dog.
Being alone in New York City in the time of COVID-19 is lonely and miserable. I've had a few walk-in-the-park dates, staying 6 feet apart and wearing a mask. But of course, even if I'd been attracted, we couldn't possibly have kissed or even held hands, so what was the point other than temporary relief from my own company?
I'm lucky because I love my work, have good friends to share my most intimate thoughts as well as theater, dinner and museums. I also play blues harmonica and am passionate about it. But after COVID-19 hit, most of my friends took off for their country or beach homes. Live music was canceled, along with theater, museums and restaurants. My entire social life was relegated to Zoom calls.
A few inital nerves
One day, feeling particularly lonely, I thought, what about a dog? Before the pandemic, I never would have considered the possibility, because my work involves travel. But I'm not going anywhere until I'm vaccinated, which will be months away.
Having a dog would mean someone to greet me each morning and lick my fingers and face. Someone I could pour out my frustrations to, hug and love unconditionally. But what would happen when COVID-19 ended? I would never want to put my doggy in a kennel, though I might have considered that for one of my exes.
Then I learned about a dog rescue in which you either adopt a dog or foster one for a few weeks before it finds its "forever" home. (Check with your local rescue, since many are experiencing longer waits due to increased interest in fostering and adoption.)
This was ideal! Not only would I help spare a dog from a possible unfortunate ending, but I'd have a special friend to love — even though for a limited time. All I had to do was watch an 18-minute video, take an online test of 36 questions based on the video and get the questions 100% correct. Piece of cake.
The video was basic: attach a leash only to the D-ring of the Martindale collar; newborn puppies' paws can't touch the ground outside; your foster dog cannot play with other dogs in a dog park — easy things like that. I took the test and got 20 correct out of 36. WHAT? I watched the video again and retook the test. This time, my score was 21. How could I get so many questions wrong?
I was about to give up, but found myself looking covetously at every dog on the street, jonesing for one. I rewatched the video and took the test again, jumping up to 28 correct. Not good enough. I watched the video again. This time, 35 correct — still unacceptable.
Maybe it was because I wanted a dog so badly or the dog gods were with me, but the fifth time I took the test, I finally got 100%.
After a few weeks, they contacted me about a foster named Lisa who was half beagle, half terrier, two years old and weighed 22 pounds. I hadn't had a dog since I was 15, so I was fairly nervous when I arrived to pick her up. They handed her off to me with a bag of dog food, snacks, toys, poop bags and a metal crate.
The way Lisa looked at me with her big brown eyes and then licked me on the lips took away all my trepidation. I was in love.
A velcro dog
I wondered if she was just playing me or merely looking for a snack, but even after a few days, she kept licking my face and hands. I took her out for walks. She never pulled at her leash, never barked, smelled everything in sight, did her business in a timely manner, and sat willingly on each street corner until I said we could cross.
By Day Six, she looked at me with such love I thought my heart would burst. Lisa was a velcro dog — she stuck to me everywhere in the house. She lay on the bath mat when I took a shower. She jumped onto my lap if I was reading the newspaper or watching TV. If I was on a Zoom call, she'd sit quietly and watch me. No man had ever been this attentive. When I practiced harmonica, she tilted her head. Surely, she had a Southern blues soul.
Unlike the three husbands, Lisa and I have never fought. At least, not yet. Then again, we can't discuss the news or cook together or help each other solve problems or tell each other when we're hurting. We can't cuddle in bed, because she has to sleep in her crate. She's not like a mate — she's more like a baby who needs constant care with walks four or five times a day (including in inclement weather). And because she likes to sniff every tree and lamp post, the walks eat up an additional two hours a day.
Someday, another love
I adore Lisa, but I accept that my time with her is limited and eventually she will leave to be adopted by her forever family. There will be no lawyer to hire or divorce papers to sign when she leaves me. And we won't fight over her toys and food and snacks; I'll give her everything. She'll lick me one last time and I'll kiss and hug her sweet wiggly body and remember her always.
And then, without so much as updating my profile, I will meet another love of my life. I will be placed at the bottom of the list to start over, but will eventually be considered for the next available sweet beagle mix like Lisa or possibly a big energetic Labrador or a small scared Chihuahua.
COVID-19 can't stop me from finding love. However much time I have left in my life, I can practice loving, expressing my deepest feelings, and being the "me" I was not with my respective husbands when they stopped nuzzling and giving me attention.
And when I am able to travel or disappear, I'll do so freely, without guilt, without feeling I have to report in. I'll check in with the rescue when I return. I'm looking forward to the thrill of that next first meeting, the look between us, the chemistry and being in love again.
This article originally appeared on NextAvenue.org.