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Sunday, June 30, 2013

the birds

I got a new tattoo, but it's still healing and weird-looking, and I'm not ready to write about the reasons I got it yet.

So here's the story about my other tattoo.

I got my birds in the summer of 2011 after my life and I had been a sick, depressed mess for a couple months. This may sound ridiculous, but I wanted a tattoo in memory of my dog, Skeeter. He died in May 2011. We got him when I was twelve and had only been living in Coldwater for a few months. I had always loved dogs. We had a Rottweiler named Kodi years prior when we lived in Angola, Indiana. He died of cancer, which is common for Rottweilers, and I was upset but too young to really get it. After we moved to Fennville when I was nine, we had a string of bad luck with adopted dogs and gave up on the idea. Then we moved to Coldwater when I was eleven. I was furious about the move, and my parents knew it. I loved living in Fennville, and when we moved there they promised we wouldn't again until I graduated high school. Lo and behold, not two years later, dad was offered a job in some stupid place called Coldwater and took it. They felt so guilty about the move they gave me a TV for my room. I still have it in my current bedroom and use it regularly. After several months in Coldwater, it was clear that I was not adjusting very well. I didn't have any friends and was being bullied into excessive shyness in the seventh grade. So, it was a perfect time to get a dog for their lonely daughter who had been begging for one.

And he was the best. My friends (I did eventually find some) all adored him and thought we looked and acted alike, but not in a mean way that insinuated I was dog-looking (I don't think). I referred to him as my canine soulmate. And he was: We both had oddly expressive faces and spastic tendencies. After I went to college, I looked forward to coming home and seeing him stare me down in the window that looks into the driveway, bark/howl, then greet me at the door, wiggling every inch of his body in excitement. When I was upset, I would come home to Coldwater largely just to cuddle with him because it always made me feel better.

 Then one day, during one of the worst times in my life, I came home expecting to be greeted by him, and he was gone. He had been gone for two weeks. I came home that day to an empty house and found my dad napping in the bedroom. I woke him up to ask where the dog was, and he and I sat on the bed and cried while he explained. He died of a sudden heart attack. My dad was with him when it happened, and it comforted me at least to know that he didn't die alone or in some shelter. My parents were right not to tell me about it over the phone - I would have immediately taken off for Coldwater, sobbing and hysterical, putting myself and others in danger.

But his death did a good job of putting things into perspective. Everything I was upset about - and there was plenty, justified or not - was really nothing compared to this sudden blow. Nothing was important enough anymore for me to be upset about, and I began to just live my life. My dog's death ended up drawing me out of a deep depression faster than any medication ever had. Who would have thought? It sounds sort of silly. But it's the truth.

After the initial grief wore off, I wanted to find a way to remember the dog I grew up with, and thank him for reminding me what's important. Though I had never really felt any interest in body art, I knew the only appropriate way was with a tattoo. But I didn't want to get his face or name tattooed onto my body, I'm not that crazy of a dog lady. The white marking between his eyes reminded me of an elongated heart, but the designs I attempted looked stupid. So, I focused on the top part of the heart, which reminded me of simple drawings of birds flying, like the ones kids (or adults who can't draw, like me) make in drawings of sunsets and rainbows. I took that idea and rolled with it, and eventually found the little black birds. I had to wait for several weeks to get it because I had mono that summer and the tattoo establishment didn't want my diseased body near them, plus I was more prone to infection because of my condition.

In late July, I finally got it and immediately loved it, and have loved it ever since, other than the day I actually got attacked by a blackbird (which turned out to be hilarious, so it's okay). The only person I have ever told about the origin of my bird tattoo was Joel. This blog is apparently turning into the place where I bare my soul to the Internet, and I'm going to try not to worry about that and just roll with it for now. I guess I didn't tell anyone because I was embarrassed that I was so affected by the death of an animal that I was compelled to get a tattoo. But it became much more to me than a reminder of a beloved pet. It was a reminder of what really matters most to me, the good in my life, when all I could focus on was the bad. It was a reminder that I got out of the worst depression I had ever felt. It's still a reminder that if I ever need to, I can do it again.


PS - Also, I apparently can't write a post unless it's ridiculously long. Again, I'm just gonna roll with it. Thanks for making it to the end. 

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