My rescue dog and I are both in recovery.
After desperate years of crippling depression, anxiety and, finally, low-bottom alcoholism, I haven't had a drink in more than four years. And after several desperate years of scrounging for rotting scraps on Puerto Rico's notorious Dead Dog Beach, my dog, Vector, has been a dearly loved member of our family since September 2013.
Given our common theme of redemption, I feel a kindred connection with Vector - a bond tying us together even more tightly than his status as my four-legged firstborn (he'll have a human little brother soon). I identify with Vector - we are both rescues, of sorts - and identification often leads to learning ... even if the teacher has paws and floppy ears.
Three lessons Vector has helped me learn:
1. You don't know who you really are when life is a perpetual emergency.
Dead Dog Beach is aptly named. When I first brought Vector home, he'd clearly lived a nightmare: His right ear had an inch-long tear, his snout a deep, permanent scar and, most glaringly, his tail had been non-surgically lopped off - the likely result of being either run over by an ATV or bitten by a fellow stray.
His mental state was even worse: Vector was a skittish, shaking nervous wreck. He was on guard, suspicious, waiting for the other paw to drop; so terrified, in fact, that for the first two weeks he was too fearful to so much as relieve himself outdoors, making pee pads - and several area rugs - necessary short-term substitutes for fire hydrants.
Two years later, Vector is an actual dog rather than a shell of one. He loves playing fetch in the backyard, enjoys a spirited game of rope-toy tug of war, and is a safe bet to sniff and mark seemingly every tree in the park. He also has a personality - quirks and subtleties that make him unique, make him ours, make him him.