I’ve had a number of black eyes in my life—be it from being pushed into a bench (thanks, bro), falling down the stairs, or tripping in the middle of the night and colliding with a door handle—but I think my most recent one sounds more ridiculous when I say it out loud.
I got a black eye from a dog.
I’m an aunt to a dog and now a cat. My sister calls me Aunt Nattie, and I embrace my role in these animals’ lives. Steph and her boyfriend, Theo, just recently got Ronnie (the cat), so I haven’t met her yet, but Thor captured my heart the moment he ate Cheez-Its from my hand. I’m definitely not going out to buy my own dog, but I really love Thor. A lot.
And apparently he loves in much bigger ways.
Cue Christmas Eve. We had eaten dinner at my parents’ house and were watching Christmas Vacation on television. I need to let you know something: Thor is a very hyper animal, especially when he’s around Audrey (my parents’ dog). He had been running around all night long and had already jumped and slobbered on me more than once. I was OK with it because I was trying to be a nice aunt, but I had let Thor know multiple times that he was annoying me.
I’m still not certain if he understands English.
Thor had been outside and came barreling back in, pouncing on me like a wild beast. I’m not sure what exactly hit me—I’m somewhat positive it was one of his freakishly strong paws—but it felt like a punch to the face.
On Christmas Eve in 2015, a dog gave me a black eye. Now there’s something I never thought I would say.
At first, I was mad at Thor. I think it was the pain and swelling talking, telling me my fur nephew is out of control. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Thor is just a giant force of love who doesn’t know how to express himself in logical ways. I mean, he is a dog, after all.
Honestly, I have to respect the way Thor loves people. He doesn’t hold back. Instead, he rushes over to people and tries to embrace them in the only way he knows how—by going all in with his heart wide open. I wonder what things would be like if we all loved the way Thor does (minus the whole accidental physical abuse thing). His love is known. His love is big. His love is passionate. His love is crazy. His love is unashamed. His love is full. His love is fearless.
And his love selflessly gives everything he has.
He’s not looking for treats. He’s not hoping for an extra trip to the dog park. He’s not seeking anything for himself. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind some love and affection in return, but he’s still going to love you regardless of how you respond to him.
Life is full of struggles, and it can be even more difficult when people don’t treat you the way you hope. It’s easy sometimes to feel like the world has turned and walked away from you. When that happens, look for the Thors in your life—those individuals who will continue to love you in big ways and with love that simply doesn’t stop. It can feel overwhelming at times, but it’s truly the love we need.
And it’s the love others need from us, too, because it’s a love that doesn’t make sense.
As much as I never thought I’d be talking about getting a shiner from a pet—I always envisioned my next one would come from a bar fight or something more exciting—I also never thought I’d be admitting to learning valuable life lessons about love from a dog. Life is weird.
It’s so weird that it seems normal that I might start using a new motto: “Love like Thor.” It actually sounds pretty powerful.
Because it is.