What a Rescue Dog Taught Me About Love
March is here on the island of Puerto Rico; the sun hangs a little higher in the sky as trade-wind breezes stir the ocean swell. Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and with it, Georgia May’s birthday. She is seven now, with a soft tide of gray hairs encroaching her whiskers, but her pit bull eyes still shine with youth. A mixture of hope and sadness has defined her longing gaze ever since I brought her home six years ago. In that time, we’ve been on countless adventures, and each one has cemented the fact that Georgia is not a pet — she’s a companion.
Our life together has taken us further into the wild, on snow-covered hikes through the Green Mountains and morning walks among the beach dunes of Puerto Rico. Still, I think about that first Valentine’s Day with Georgia May — it changed my perspective on what it means to have a dog.
I was 25 years old when Georgia came into my life; she promptly dismantled whatever social clout I had going at the moment. Friends and family told me that my late twenties were going to be the days of milk and honey. And for the first half of my 25th year, they were. Twilight rooftop parties overlooking New York became the norm; friends became an ever-present parade of smiles and laughter. My life seemed to have a bubbly effervescence. But six months later, I no longer raced toward happy hours and brilliant sunsets on the Hudson; I ran home to walk this creature who now depended on me entirely.
I rescued Georgia May on February 13 from her home in Bed-Stuy. She was about a year old but weighed only 44 pounds, her ribs and vertebrae visible beneath her fur. The people who looked after her couldn’t afford to feed themselves and a dog. They agreed, with some sadness, to let me take her. That night, while others confirmed plans for Valentine’s Day and bought last-minute gifts, I bathed the grime off Georgia and taught her to walk on a leash — the first sign that things were about to change.
The next morning was a frigid one; with the windchill, it easily dipped into the negatives. And if you stood where I was, in line for the mobile vet clinic where Harlem concrete brushes up against the East River, the cold was unfathomable. I’d managed to buy Georgia a jacket that morning, but it wasn’t enough to keep the chill off her emaciated frame; she had devolved into shivers. My best friend and brother, who had sacrificed his Valentine’s morning to spend it with us, huddled with me over the dog to form a makeshift windbreak. We stood like that for about an hour. Finally, the man in the truck called my name. He examined Georgia May and gave her the first shots she needed. With that, she was officially mine.
It might be hard to believe, but that ranks as one of my best Valentine’s Days. (Please don’t be mad, love.) It was ugly. It was cold. But it was also a reaffirmation of love. And it showed me the kind of devotion that I would need to display going forward now that this creature was in my life.
The extra responsibility Georgia May has brought to my life all seems trivial as I watch her run across the dunes, kicking up geysers of sand as she chases an iguana. Life is more rewarding with her in it.
I grew up with dogs, but too often in the past, I’d been content to simply possess them. With Georgia, I began to realize that two meals a day and a warm place to sleep were the bare minimum. Even now, at seven years old, locked in the house with me during a pandemic, she gets affected by boredom. I can only imagine what it was like when I worked 10-hour days and came home too exhausted to do much of anything.
Despite how domesticated I may want to believe she is, Georgia May craves the wild. And so our companionship, from the concrete jungle that birthed it, has evolved into a pursuit of spaces where we can live out the primal drive buried within us. It’s in these spaces that the bond between humans and our canine companions first formed centuries ago. And it’s where I feel most connected to Georgia, her yellow eyes searching the undergrowth for the creeping things she cannot see but knows are there.
If I hadn’t taken her home that fateful February night, my life may have been easier. There will never come a day when she can take herself out or won’t need me to feed her. Not to mention that traveling with a 60-pound pit bull, especially to and from an island, is nothing less than a pain in the ass.
But the extra responsibility Georgia May has brought to my life all seems trivial as I watch her run across the dunes, kicking up geysers of sand as she chases an iguana. Life is more rewarding with her in it.
It’s not just the love she gives—it’s the love she requires.