Our Endorphin Machine

Some years ago, I wrote a short essay about Jaetu, our goldendoodle. It was called “Our Endorphin Machine” and published in WNC Magazine. Jaetu was little then. Only two years old. I was physically well then and Wayne was mentally intact. All three of us felt like youngsters, bounding around and doing with our lives as we pleased.

Six years later, Jaetu no longer fetches balls for hours on end, I no longer feel invincible physically, and Wayne no longer is allowed to drive. Yet there is a deep current of tenderness that roams freely among the three of us now, the quality of which wasn’t there six years ago. It basically says, moment by moment, choice by choice, “I choose you.”

I choose you, Jaetu, when you roll your ball underneath my chair for the umpteenth time today. I choose you, Laurie, when you work all day and into the night. I choose you, Wayne, when you ask me the same question multiple times in an hour without knowing it. There is no one anywhere in this world that I would rather share today with than you.

This Christmas Season, I’m sharing my “Our Endorphin Machine” story with you. It comes with an encouragement not only to treasure those you love, but to choose them on a conscious, daily and ongoing basis.

 Our Endorphin Machine

There’s something very sweet about night falling when you’re sitting at your desk with a warm puppy at your feet. For many of us, dogs are walking endorphin machines. Ours has been exercised, muddied, bathed and settled down for the night. She is asleep beside me now. She’ll stay that way until my husband walks in and she wakes up long enough to wag her tail. That’s one of her jobs. She’s our welcomer.

For most of our lives, my husband was busy making the money we needed to care for the kids, dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils, fish, birds, and snakes. I have been the mother-of-ceremonies for our menagerie. Now it’s just the two of us and one dog. The kids are off making the money and mothering/fathering their own menageries.

We prepared for this dog in a way we never prepared for the kids or the pets. Maybe it’s because my husband is retired and we are home more together. Maybe it’s that nobody told us before that we needed to prepare for the creatures in our lives. Whatever the reason, we just made the kids and found the animals without much prep work.

This time it was different. We chose her breed (Goldendoodle). We choose her birthplace (a farm in Missouri). We read books on puppy raising, bought puppy equipment, selected puppy toys, and counted off the days until she was six weeks old. No crating her and putting her on a plane to us. We drove the 800 miles to get her.

Did any of this really matter? Yes and no. Most of it is silly. You can throw the pets in with the kids and they’ll turn out just fine. But getting ready for her did help create a type of sharing that’s new for us. My husband told me, “I want her to be mine as much as she’s yours,” and I said, “Okay, I want that, too.” And for the first time in our lives, we are caring for a living being in the same ways. There’s something about this that touches us deeply and something about her that makes us smile a lot.

Some people think we’ve gone around the bend. Some people understand. Some people share the same enthusiasm for her that we do. But my husband and I walk around now with a three-way bond that’s palpable. When I look at her, I see him, too, holding her on his lap like a little puppy even though she’s two now. When he looks at her, he sees me, too, washing her feet when I bring her inside on a muddy day. We see love and giving when we look at her. And we see both of us, sharing like for like.

There’s something very tender about it. Taking care of our endorphin machine and finding out together that she takes care of us.

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