Just so you know, writing this makes me distinctly uncomfortable.
Matt and I are not, like, publicly affectionate people. We do not document our rare dates. We appeared in one photo together this year. Nonetheless, when reflecting on 2016, this post felt necessary.
Matt and I have known each other since high school and have been together since college. In a lot of ways, we’re opposites; I like to read, Matt likes to binge watch everything on Netflix. I express myself best in writing, and Matt doesn’t pick up a pen unless he has to sign something. I’m uptight, borderline neurotic, and perpetually pissed off, and Matt is laid-back, funny, and generally nice to people. Of course, we have a lot of common ground; we’re nerdy as all hell and love a lot of the same movies, comics and video games. We have our few good friends and not a lot of acquaintances, and we like it that way.
We’ve seen each other change a lot, and we’ve experienced a lot of change together, especially recently. In the course of two years, we went from having an apartment and one cat to having a house, two cats, two dogs, and 10 foster dogs. Nine of those fosters and one of those adopted dogs were in 2016, and they started off with Susan.
Susan was our second foster and the sister to our first foster, Teddy, whom we adored. Both of them had come from Tennessee, but Teddy had come several months earlier and had stayed with Melissa before we took him, so even though we had to work on potty-training he was pretty wonderful from the start.
We took Susan straight off the van from Tennessee, frozen in fear and extremely stinky. We’re not entirely sure Susan had ever been in a house before ours; doors and stairs were foreign to her. Our house is a pretty decent set-up for dogs, except for one thing: There are two doors and a small set of stairs between the living room and the backyard.
Shortly after we brought her back, I went upstairs to shower. When I came back down, Susan had spewed positively volcanic diarrhea over the carpet and Matt was, well, not happy. The smell was, without a doubt, one of the worst to ever assail my nostrils.
“It’s never going to come out of the carpet,” he said numbly. “Our house will smell like this forever.”
“Look, it’s totally fine,” I lied to him as I cleaned up, trying not to breathe, gag or cry. “I’ll get a steam cleaner. But this can be our last foster if you want.”
Obviously, Susan wasn’t our last foster. She got adopted within two weeks, and then came Stewie. I wondered if Stewie would be our last foster when I had to wrest him out of a weeping Matt’s arms to take him to his first and last home visit. Obviously, Stewie wasn’t our last foster.
Whether it’s puppies or adult dogs, whether we want to keep them or really, really, really want them to get adopted, Matt does a lot of the care. He works out of our home, so when they’re not at daycare, he’s taking care of them while I’m at work. Having three to four dogs is a job in itself, and it’s only because of him that I still have my sanity. Furthermore, I wanted to volunteer and signed up to do so, but he didn’t have much choice in the matter. Nonetheless, he cleans up poop, takes dogs for walks, makes runs for food or dewormer and has transported a puppy or two. He still gets attached and cries on the way home from adoptions.
This week was extra fun, because, in a fitting end to 2016, I finally got my wisdom teeth out with only local anesthesia. As someone who had nine teeth pulled for her braces, got kicked in the face by a horse and had a root canal, I figured it couldn’t be that bad. I figured wrong.
When numbing the roof of my mouth, the oral surgeon went through my gums with the needle and nicked something in my ear, so my equilibrium was gone. I didn’t feel too bad leaving the office, but the instant the car stopped in our driveway I leaned out and starting puking blood. For the rest of the night, I was so dizzy and nauseous I would throw up if I even rolled over in bed. Now, I’m someone who can’t even listen to someone else puke, but damn if Matt didn’t stand there and hold my hair before running out to fill my prescriptions, get ice cream and pudding, and clean up the blood in the driveway.
Matt has kind of always been like that, though. In college, I had the worst flu of my entire life; I couldn’t keep a sip of water down and my spine felt like it was eating through my back. Matt brought me Gatorade, crackers and ginger ale and sat with me even though I was gray-faced and disgusting. On any given Friday, he’ll roll out the door to get me candy or wine (I’m sensing a theme, here) when I get home from work. Some days, I only drink water because he reminds me to do it.
As a whole, 2016 was not a great year. At the beginning, we lost Alan Rickman, who I knew and loved as a Harry Potter fan since childhood. At the end, we lost Carrie Fisher, who Matt knew and loved as a Star Wars fan since childhood. We lost a host of inspiring, creative people in between, watched old white people elect a demagogue so impossibly stupid and thin-skinned the secondhand embarrassment might kill us before the nuclear war does, saw horror from Syria to Orlando. On the other hand, we had some amazing dogs and got to know some fantastic people. Through it all, Matt has been infinitely patient, supportive and forgiving. No matter what happens in 2017 — hopefully there are a few good things — I’ll be awfully glad to have him by my side.