When you find yourself in seek of a house-sitter, you probably search for someone who doesn’t have to look out for anyone but themselves. Single, independent, accepts payment in the shape of a wine bottle, taking care of their singular self, in essence, alone. I meet all of the listed criteria, and I meet them well. I am the go-to house-sitter/dog-sitter/single-friend-available-for-anything that I can’t blame the people in my life for taking full advantage of. I love it. I am a traveling gypsy, totally willing to pack a suitcase for a week and help myself to your snacks after watering your plants. Whatever you need to get by. So it doesn’t surprise me when another opportunity presents itself and I’m temporarily living 10 minutes away from my apartment.

My most recent house-sitting excursion involved taking care of a Yellow Labrador; Sasha. Sasha is the epitome of all things puppy, and I’ve loved her from the moment I met her. She can be easily mistaken as hyperactive, but she really has an energy for life that just can’t seem to escape her. She is trusting from the get-go, willing to love you until you want love no more, and ready to soak in any attention you can offer. Understanding her temperament from what I had seen on occasion, I knew it would be a week filled with lots of play, cuddling, belly-rubbing, and lint-rolling.

What I didn’t realize, is that Sasha has many layers to her. She is so much more than a reliable dog. She is a living thing with a lot of feeling, drive, and empathy for others. She is in her own canine fashion, complex. Spending a week with her ended up being so much more than yet another house to sit in. It resulted in an unexpected learning experience that I am happy to have felt.

Sasha is not afraid to show just how much she loves you. She will jump on you, contrary to how she’s been trained; she will put her face right next to yours in hopes you’ll invite her in closer. She whimpers the moment you start petting her, showing she’s already hopeful it won’t end. She cries hearing motion in the house not knowing where you are, and she’s excited to see you after 2 minutes of walking to the mailbox. She is unapologetically vulnerable in its purest possible fashion.

In a dog’s world, she isn’t worried about “coming on too strong,” or people thinking she’s needy. She isn’t questioning whether or not people will like her, or if she’ll scare them away. She just wakes up every day, and decides to be Sasha. Or should I say, SASHA. She is, in a guiltlessly reckless way, her fullest self. And ironically, the only people she really needs, the people who love her for all that she is, are the very people who’ve stuck around.

Sasha doesn’t need much to make her happy, and the thump of her powerful tail might be one of the gaudiest illustrations of that. Don’t bother looking her direction if she’s sitting in front of the dishwasher; it sounds like a Grateful Dead concert, and she barely notices the beat of her own happiness. She is happy just in knowing that somebody she loves is in her company; fully present, always interested in those around her, and never wondering outside of what, or who, is directly in front of her.

Being around Sasha every day put things into a simpler perspective for me. While I could see that she is full of complexities and layers, she has it much more figured out than most of us do. She is who she is, and she loves people until the love seems overbearing, but she doesn’t care if that’s too much for you; if you can handle her. She just loves you, I mean LOVES you. Ironically enough, you tend to miss that kind of fierce, unregretful attitude the moment you walk away from it.

Sasha, very simply decides every day, to be present. To be grateful for everything she’s given, to play with the people who want to play and waste no thought on the people who don’t. Unless they change their mind, then of course, she would forgive them. She would always trust again, she would always let them back in, she would always be willing to forget the past if it meant enjoying the now. She is happy and unafraid to share that with the world. She is grateful for a single scoop of food and happy to thank you even when her bowl is empty. She lives with the kind of attitude that we all could learn from. Gratitude.

Sasha doesn’t let the fear of letting go or saying goodbye get in the way of how fully she will enjoy her moments. And when somebody leaves, she is sad in a very brave sense. A sad that she will vocalize and express until she feels better, (once you’ve returned from the mailbox). She puts it all out there for you to see, and you can’t help but love her for it. There are no ulterior motives, no hidden agendas, just candid outright feelings. You could argue it’s because her life is simple, full of little responsibility, or we could assume that happiness is a choice afterall.

When I grow up, (assuming I’m not quite there), I want to be like that. I want to wag my tail and show people how much I care. I want to be 100% IN on loving my circle and allow myself to feel all the feels so that I really am exhausted when I hit the pillow at night. I want to be grateful for my plate of food even when it’s empty, and focus on the people who always show up instead of dwelling on the absent. I want to be me, in all caps, every day. Like Sasha.

Wag your tail today. Make some noise – put yourself out there. Stop holding back because you’re scared. What are you so scared of? Be you, and be it loud.

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