70: The Other Woman

70: The Other Woman

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Dog Did That!

The Other Woman

The art of love. . . is largely the art of persistence.

~Albert Ellis

When it comes to couples, there are a variety of hurdles that can obstruct an otherwise clear path to coupledom. For my husband and me, our relationship felt like second nature the instant we met. It was like I was catching up with an old friend. I secretly entertained thoughts of him by a campfire, telling our grandchildren stories about how he won my heart. I was on cloud nine, but I could not have anticipated that there was already another lady at the core of Lee’s heart.

The leading lady in his life came in the form of a forty-five-pound black Labrador mix named Nyko. Based on what I pieced together from Lee, she was a rescued stray with an untamed heart who possessed the unique ability to stare into one’s soul with her distinctly wise, golden eyes.

It was on our third date that I got to meet Nyko, and I was eager to gain her approval. Unfortunately for me, my enthusiasm to make new friends was not reciprocated. Nyko suspiciously sniffed at my ankles while I gushed about how happy I was to meet her. Once she satisfied her curiosity and determined that I didn’t have any food to offer, Nyko gave me a skeptical glance as though to say, “Who are you and what do you want with my dad?” With a shake of her comically crooked ears, she coolly turned away from me and strutted over to the couch where she stretched herself across the cushions like a lioness inspecting her kingdom. With a lurch in my stomach, I realized I was the “other woman” in Lee’s life.

Before I came into the picture, Lee and Nyko had their routine. They hiked together, he gave her belly rubs, and he let her lick the bottom of his TV dinner containers. Nyko even had a designated spot on the bed. I was a deviation from their unspoken contract, and she was set on establishing herself at the top of the pecking order.

Nyko often exhibited her superiority by wedging herself between us when we were snuggled on the couch watching a movie. Plopping down right on top of our laps, she wiggled her way between us and stretched her legs as far as she could, pushing me away with her paws as her tail thumped triumphantly. She then rolled onto her back with an exaggerated sigh, beckoning Lee to rub her belly. Her greatest pleasure was rummaging through my overnight bag and scattering the contents all around the house.

Two months into our relationship, I still didn’t feel like I had broken through to Nyko. Her usual habits continued, and Lee and I were hardly permitted to sit within two feet of each other. She started racing us to bed, defiantly claiming her spot next to Lee’s pillow. One night, as we gently tried to coax her from her spot, Nyko rooted herself like a tree, refusing to move a single inch. I knew that it was absolutely necessary for me to win Nyko over if we wanted the relationship to progress.

One crisp morning after Lee left for the day, I crept out of bed and roused Nyko. I slipped on her leash and we stepped out the front door into the glowing atmosphere created by the blazing fall leaves. Nyko and I frolicked in the refreshing air, relishing the morning sunlight, until our legs were tired. We explored the train tracks, and I laughed as she explored empty gopher holes. She twitched her ears like antennas trying to pick up any sounds muffled underground.

As we meandered back home I talked to Nyko. I told her that she was a good girl for looking out for her guy, and that I wanted us to be a family. Using her nose to sniff out hidden treasures beneath the tangled undergrowth that lined the narrow road, she seemed to be in her own world far away from me. Discouraged, I walked in complete silence until we reached the creaky staircase that marked our return home. As I bent over to unclip her leash, I felt her damp tongue glide across my cheek and she shifted her weight so she could lean into me. I patted her on the belly, and looked into her bright eyes. An invisible thread connected my heart to hers. From that moment on, little by little, I grew on Nyko. Within a short time, we all fit on the couch comfortably, me in Lee’s arms, and Nyko next to me with her head on my lap.

~Rachel Rosenthal

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