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"You can't hold a dog like that and then not keep her," said Trevett, my oldest brother. It was early November of 2011, and I was intimately but not inappropriately spooning Maggie May on the floor of my apartment in Miracle Mile. Trevett was out from New York to visit me, and having raised pit bulls and mastiffs throughout his life could spot a dog and her human from a mile away.
I had been fostering Maggie since mid-October of 2011, and I'm going to put this as honestly as I can: there may be no story in nature more beautiful, iconic and special to me than that of a boy and his dog. It has been retold countless times in popular culture (watch "Terminator 2" again - that's a story about a boy and his "dog"), and growing up on a twenty-five acre farm in upstate New York it's one I've lived and experienced many times.
When I relocated to Los Angeles to pursue acting, I left behind Foxy - a one hundred ten pound half mastiff/half pit bull brindle beauty queen, whom I loved and bonded with deeply. I have missed that dog almost as much as I have missed my family - and let's be honest, often times more than I have missed my family. And indeed, as I lay on the floor with my body against Maggie's, I said to Trevett, "but I have a dog - I have Foxy. I can't adopt another dog while she's still alive, it wouldn't be right."
Trevett looked at me with an expression of classic big brother to little brother nuance and said, "but Foxy is taken care of. She's been sleeping with Mom for five years, she's nine years old, and she's happy."
He pointed to Maggie. "This dog needs you." And he was right - and I understood that then, but I didn't know it yet.
Three weeks later, still fostering Maggie, I left her with free reign of the apartment one night when I went out late to meet some friends for pre-Thanksgiving drinks. Being up in the hills, I had no cell phone service and was alarmed to discover a voicemail from Katie (CEO and Founder) of Angel City Pit Bulls at around 2am.
Maggie had escaped my apartment. She was okay, neighbors had discovered her on the street where I live, called the number for Angel City Pit Bulls on her tags, and Katie had her safely in her own home. After I spoke to Katie in a fit of not so subtle guilt, I went home, sat down on my couch and called a friend and cried.
Like a little boy who almost lost his best friend in the world, I cried imagining how close my Maggie had come to being lost forever - either to me or to the world. And how she must have been wondering where I was and if I was okay, as in that moment I wondered if she was okay. Of course, I knew she was more than okay - Maggie loves Katie, as do all the puppies - but that wasn't the point. The point was that she wasn't with me and I wasn't with her. And finally I knew what Trevett had really meant when he said, "this dog needs you."
I needed this dog.
It was mid-December when I officially adopted Maggie. I cooked her a steak that night. I don't mind sharing with anyone who reads this that I have had personal struggles with anxiety and depression throughout my life. Anyone who knows her will tell you, "so has Maggie." Her wide-eyed "worried face," as a loving friend compassionately referred to it, is maybe something I saw myself in. I learned a lot about myself in watching Maggie - she taught me - because the qualities in her personality that I adore I also began to notice in myself.
She is sometimes afraid but full of life and love. She loves people, particularly ladies. She likes to play, and likes to eat and exercise. And so, if a dog can teach me about the best in myself, that I am capable of more depth of compassion than I previously knew, and all I have to do in return is give her my love and some food… I'm the lucky one.
I don't know that I could put it any better than I did one day when on the phone with my mother discussing Foxy - whom, of course, I still love so much - and my recent adoption of Maggie.
"Maggie has just made my life… warmer."
Do yourself a favor. Warm your life up. Adopt a pit bull, adopt any dog - and he or she will love you forever.