When we think about being twenty years old. Some of the first things that come to mind are "great! I survived teen pregnancy" and "x months till I can legally drink!"
*pulls out fake id and glances at the horrific plastic presentation*
When you've made it some years passed the big two-oh. You quickly realize how young you really were, how small problems really were, and how the world was really just getting ready to show you what it has in store. Whether you were a sorority sister in a Big Ten school, an art school kid thriving on some urban streets, or college wasn't part of your story period, being 20 was in some capacity, life changing.
Unlike most kids from the town I grew up in, I went off to the city to study art and film. Little known fact, I ended up in art school not as a result of my rebellious and creative nature but because I spelled my last name wrong on the only other college application I sent out.
*I'll momentarily pause while you get your giggles out. One, because how does that happen? I have had this name my entire life, and two, my last name is Barry. That double R can be really tricky you know.*
Nevertheless, here I was, this pink haired twenty year old, searching the streets of Chicago for meaning when the best thing that ever happened to me, quite literally strolled up and inserted himself in my life. His name is Louie B. He's got four legs, shockingly prominent eyebrows, hairless armpits, a grin that could break even the strongest will, a belly full of peanut butter, and an unreasonable magnetic pull to near death experiences, just like his mom.
When Louie found me, he was 28lbs (now 85), full of chaotic energy, and his breed was pretty unidentifiable, except for the fact that he has an obviously Pitbull like face. Upon further investigating we learned he didn't belong to anyone and was in need of a new home. Without hesitation, my responsibly denied lifelong dream of having a dog came true, and with zero preparation I brought him home.
Within the first couple months of having Louie, he ate rat poison. If you know anything about what rat poison does to animals, then you know how brutal this actually is. Trigger warning: it starts burning through the organ tissues from the inside out causing internal bleeding until death. It can be hard to catch initially and can be near impossible to reverse after a certain point of damage. For Louie, no one knows where the rat poison even came from, how he got into it, or how on earth he ate enough of it to effect him like it did. I just came home from work one day and he was unconscious and completely pale. We rushed him to the emergency hospital for animals, and I would spend the next few days laying on the floor of the vet hospital with him, begging and pleading with the universe to give me another chance and little more time. "I'll watch him closer, i'll move to a farm, i'll sue the rat poison company, i'll work for peta, i'll do anything," to name a few of my plea's. Then after a week of hell and not much logic or rationalization, Louie B pulled through.
Life looked a lot different after that. He came home with a few scars and we started the process of cleaning up our life choices. That included all the little things like new food, more walks in nature, learning new tricks, and a surplus of snuggles. It also included making a lot of decisions that were not easy. For example, I dated a guy who hated dogs and in the simplest terms "tolerated" Louie. That relationship met its demise relatively soon after. Then there was the biggest life change; I stopped going out, clubbing, and drinking and decided to do a bodybuilding show. Now, I understand initially that doesn't sound like it correlates, but let me explain. When you're prepping for a bodybuilding show, it is one of the most humbling and personal journeys anyone could take. The things you put your own body, emotional, and mental state through to chase an aesthetic goal is borderline insane, so I have to point out that 99% of people can't do it alone without a support system. Louie was my support system.
He would get up with me at 3am for his morning walk before I headed off to the local X-Sport gym for fasted cardio. He would eat his first meal with me at 5am. He walked around in circles with me for hours when my performance anxiety wouldn't let me sit still. He was my movie buddy on Fridays when everyone else was going out. He was my excuse to leave a party when people gave me a hard time for being sober. He gave me talking points when I had nothing left to say or when conversations started to feel like pulling teeth to have. He was there smiling EVERY time I walked through the door. He was always up for snuggles. He constantly reminded me how exciting meal times were and how little things like sitting in the grass can change your whole mood. He made every single day better, and this is just to name a few things. At this point, I wasn't new to the fitness space, but after reevaluating what I was doing outside of the gym, Louie really did teach me how to grow up.
Fast forward six years. We have lived in 3 cities, 6 apartments, had 4 different roommates, countless more accidents and a whip lash of life happenings. From the start of my life, I knew I was never going to be dull or have boring and simple adventures; I knew from the day I brought Louie home, he wouldn't either. He was cut from the same cloth I was and truly my greatest blessing was that I didn't have to move forward alone anymore.
I truly believe that when you look in a dogs eyes, you can just tell when they have a lot more depth to their soul. There are just some dogs you meet, where you could swear on your whole life they were actually a person or there was a person stuck deep down inside of there somewhere. Can't really explain it, its just something you know the instant you make eye contact. I call them Soul Dogs, and Louie, is absolutely one. When you look at his eyes you get lost in the strange honey color that are always filled with intense emotion. There is zero question of whether he's happy, sad, annoyed, hungry or simply just being pathetic and wanting attention. He loudly displays how he feels about other people; most of the time, he just wants to snuggle and love, but every so often I or my roommate would bring home a new guy and Louie would investigate and report back on his stance. He has a perfect score so far. To me, that means he can see our souls too.
Louie was the astroid that rocked my entire world. He didn't come in quietly or subtly and he has played a huge part in uprooting the things that were no longer serving me or my purpose. He taught me how to be a mom, to be a better friend, better worker, better provider, better teacher, better problem solver; he taught me to have more patience, compassion, unconditional love, support, and a million other things I could spend the next century writing out. He has no idea what he means to me, he will never understand, and thats perfectly okay. I love everything about our atypical life, every plot twist and turn I have gotten to share with him, every upgrade and downfall we've lived through, every adventure being more precious than the last. I love everything about the person he helped me become.
He saved my life and he has no idea. He is my bestfriend. So for now, with all the love in my heart, endless amounts of peanut butter will have to do thanking for me🖤