Tanna was the embodiment of everything I wanted to be in my twenties. I got a dog for somewhat selfish reasons. But that is the thing about the love of a dog… you may go in with one expectation and come out with a whole world of understanding that you didn’t even know existed.
When I was growing up my Mom had some close friends who we spent quite a bit of time with. They had a German Shorthaired Pointer named Gus who was an awesome dog. GSP’s are a hunting breed well known for being obscenely high energy, smart, trainable, and loyal. I knew that one day when I could have a dog of my own, that I would get a Shorthair who was just as wonderful.
I met Tanna when she was five weeks old, and I was 22 years old. She was one of eight puppies that were piled together sleeping on a dog bed in Longmont, Colorado. I said I wanted a dog that would be my running companion, and she immediately picked up a petite female who they called Arrow (because of her markings), and handed all five pounds of her to me. She was sweet and soft, wrinkly and wriggly. Of course she would be mine. When I went to visit her a week later, all eight puppies ran to the fence when I walked over… and five seconds later all of them ran back to the dog bed. All except for little Arrow, who sat at the fence looking up at me. It was one of those things that was meant to be… destiny smiling down upon us. Two weeks after that little Arrow would become my beloved Montanna, or Tanna for short. I drove my Jeep home, with her on my lap, and started our life adventure together.
She had a pretty normal puppyhood. She was all spinning circles, bouncing jumps, and flapping ears. Her tiny puppy bark like laughter. In her adulthood, Tanna was everything a dog should be: smart, loyal, loving. Everyone whoever met her called her “regal.” And yet, when you looked into her eyes you could see there was something inside her that could not be tamed. She was beautiful and slightly aloof, but with a fierceness and spunk that would make me smile and surprise people who didn’t know her. Shorthairs are an extremely high energy breed, but I have always been a pretty high energy chick… which is why Tanna and I were meant to be. We ran together, swam together, hiked together, snowshoed together… she was pretty limitless in activity. Her need for exercise kept me accountable. I couldn’t drink too much at night like a normal twenty something because she would need to go running in the morning before I went to work. When I was single I never went home with weird dudes because I needed to let out my dog. And I didn’t need to go home with anyone because I had someone who depended on me, and loved me unconditionally waiting for me at home. She moved with me all over the country, was my constant through many jobs, a few horrible bosses, hundreds of shitty customers, and a couple of crappy boyfriends. Her love and loyalty transcended the occurences of everyday existence.
I hope that everyone gets to love/receives love like this at least once in their lives. To love something that is all your own. Or maybe it is just a time in your life when you have something that makes you feel confident, safe and independent, in a world that is always so volatile and uncertain, especially for women. And something that isn’t the love of a partner with their own agenda. That is what unconditional love is to me. It is not just that you have the love of a being that doesn’t care who you are… but one that loves you without a care for what the world is. A love entirely free of all judgement and expectations. That type of love allows you to learn how to channel anger without resentment.
The short truth is that she protected me emotionally and physically until I got my shit together. Stayed by my side through some pretty rough storms until I really learned to love myself.
I can’t even say Thank You because that just won’t cut it. She was more than wonderful. She was a life saver. In a time when we are calling millennials self-centered narcissists, I think the reality is that any 20-something has the opportunity to become that (although it is much easier now than it was 11 years ago). Having to care for someone other than myself during a time that can be rather self-centered has undoubtedly made me a different, and better person. I am honored that she chose to spend her life loving me. When I had her tags for her collar made years ago, the front of her tag had her name and my phone number on it, and the back said: Tanna fluff is loved by Erin. After 11 years the tags are so worn you can hardly read the writing. And I feel like it should have been the opposite: Tanna fluff loves Erin. Those stupid tags just don’t have enough letters.Maybe we should start a program to adopt dogs out of all the overcrowded shelters to narcissist millennials.
It has been a big year for me. I had a baby, had to give up a job I loved, and just said goodbye to a most wonderful companion. It is a lot of change all at one time. And even though my tendency is to be quiet, solemn, and more solitary than usual… that isn’t an option anymore, and it isn’t the right path these days. So rather than be resentful or sad about loss, I am going to choose to be grateful. And not in an Instagram montage, or a hashtag train. I am going to live it every single day. When I start to feel out of sorts for whatever reason, I will think of the love, light and stability I got from Tanna every day she was alive. And I will choose to pass that forward whenever I can.
We buried her by the lake, a mere fifty feet from Hendrix. I don’t know about the afterlife, but every time I walk around the lake I will see them tromping through the woods and swimming in the lake with such joy, like they did when they were alive.
I will always love you sweet girl. Thank you for everything. We will see each other again one day.
Rest in Peace.
Montanna Bernard 12.7.04 – 12.11.15