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For the love of dog

When it comes to fangirling, I’m much more apt to lapse into a stammering, star-struck nerd when it comes to beloved writers. I gasp with glee as I build that pedestal just a little bit higher with every perfect turn of phrase that I read. I become the little kid sitting cross-legged at the library during story time when I go to an author’s reading or signing event.

I’m also not above girl crushes on big giant movie stars, although it almost always begins with a beloved character. I swoon over a cherished character or performance and then hope that the actor is also actually a decent person. Yeah. Because I need my fantasy BFFs to be talented and principled.

So I watch Natalie Portman with awe and wonder, all the while thinking Please please please have substance. And she does! And I fall in line and in love with Hermione and hope that Emma Watson is similarly brilliant. And she is! And I see the painfully self-conscious Toula and her big fat Greek wedding and I

> screeeeeech <  Let’s be honest. Fangirling aside, I have two words for you:  John. Corbett.

Still, I not only want Toula and dry-toast-Ian-Miller to be happy ever after, I want Nia Vardolos to be a regular person that I could bump into at Starbucks. And sure, if she happens to lean in and ask me to share her buy-one-get-one coupon, I guess I’d be okay with that.


All these slightly frightening neuroses aside, what I’m truly a sucker for is when one of these mind-flirts starts crushing on their dog. It’s like soul chocolate, filling in spaces of cynicism and doubt with authentic emotion and humanity. But beyond the #dogsofinstagram there is the other end of the spectrum when we must say goodbye.  No matter how different we are, there is little that compares to the raw emotion of grief, and of losing a dog.

Disclaimer: Yes, I’m one of those dog people. The one who bites her tongue not to talk about her dog as much as you talk about your kids. And no, that seemingly snarky comment does not in any way mean that I don’t want to hear about your kids because I do. Most days, I do. It’s complicated. I’m complicated. But then you know that. Okay enough of this disclaimer stuff. However, you might be surprised to learn that I also agree with this.

I wrote this about my dog last year and today when I came across what not only sounded but actually in-my-gut felt like the same thing from someone who I fangirlishly admire? The world sort of shrunk and somewhere a lens clicked and now there is more clarity. Because I can relate.

Grief does that. Cuts straight across every seemingly disproportionate level of “achievement,” down to the basest level of humanity. Where the pedestals crumble and the airbrushing disappears and all that’s left is the commonality of loss, pain, heartbreak. Along with the forever love of a dog and the love lessons they teach us.

When parents talk about our love for our pets, we often use words such as, 'best friend', 'confidante', 'fur baby', and 'buddy'. For me, Manny was all that and much more. Fourteen years ago, in a late night online search, I found Manny living in a pound. He had been abandoned, I had been defeated by years of unsuccessful fertility treatments. Becoming Manny's mom was the beginning of my healing. I needed to take care of him, he needed a loving home. Together, we forged ahead into the future. I began to realize that the emotions I felt about my Manny didn't feel any different than if he had come from my body, and my thoughts turned to the process of adopting a child. Manny had helped me move past grieving, and into parenting my daughter. Of all the descriptions I can think of for Manny, the word which fits best is that he was good. There was unabashed kindness in his eyes, uninhibited acceptance in his soul. As a person who aspires to surround myself with good friends and family, to write compassionate characters, and to seek out kind people with whom to work, Manny embodied the basic principle of the life I try to lead: Be good, and good people will find you and be good to you. Rest in peace my good boy. You're in my heart which will love you forever.

A post shared by Nia Vardalos (@niavardalos) on

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