A lot has happened since I arrived in Germany. I've learned how count euros, tried vegan cheese for the first time and gotten lost in a Munich train station for three hours. I've gotten out more in the past few weeks than I have in a year at home. But as I have yet to settle into a routine in my new life, there's a lot I'm still missing.
I walked through the door to my apartment at 4 a.m. on Sunday morning, after having been up for 24 hours experiencing the hell of Munich's public transportation for the first time. (This is a story for later.) When I got to my room, weary from the day's events, there was something I wanted even more than a warm bed and a full night of sleep.
Whenever I would come home from a day of work at the Telegraph, I had a very special routine that would instantly put me at ease, no matter what I had read that day about fatal car accidents or parents abusing their children. My 90-pound Doberman pinscher would be waiting for me, curled up on my bed like the lazy couch potato she is -- and as soon as she saw me, she'd squirm over to my side, place her paws on my arms, rest her head on my chest, and just siiiiiiigh and stay there for a while. I looked forward to my dog's "welcome home" hug every single day.
Life feels a little empty now without her.
A year ago, I hadn't planned to get a dog. But late one night, on a complete whim, I found myself Googling dog rescues -- and before long, I had fallen in love with a beautiful red Doberman in Oklahoma named Macy. Everything about her seemed perfect for my lifestyle, all the pieces fell together and I made arrangements with Pet Angels Rescue to pick her up as soon as I was able.
It was an adventure to go get her; I got lost a few times on the way to Oklahoma, got two speeding tickets (I can explain, I swear), almost ran out of gas and had my car break down twice going home. As I was pulled over on the side of the road, crying and wondering if I'd ever get home, I felt a wet nose nudge my hand, and soon Macy -- who I would give the name "Luka" -- was crawling into my lap, trying her best to comfort me.
That's when I knew for sure I had chosen the right dog.
It took some time for Luka to adjust to her new life. I learned that she was terribly abused before I got her, that she had a fear of men and was upset by cigarette smoke. (I would later find burn marks on her side, where I am sure she was used as an ashtray.) She'd spent two years at the rescue waiting for the right person to take her home, and now here we were, slowly learning about each other and settling into our own routine.
We both helped each other heal. We were both victims of abuse, trying to get used to a life of love and security instead of a life of fear. I learned what triggered her and slowly built up trust with her, and she slept closer to me each night, making me feel safe again. Within a few months, she was a completely different dog, no longer cowering and hiding from strangers, but holding her head high and making lots of new friends. And she changed me, too. I felt safer, stronger, more motivated to take care of both of us. We formed a special bond that was as precious to me as any of my human relationships. We loved each other unconditionally.
Luka is doing well now, happily staying with my father and her new friends, a sweet pit bull named Cooper and a rambunctious husky named Koda. But I can't help but feel guilty for taking this step in my life without her. I sought every avenue to bring her with me, but determined it would be too much money and too much stress on her to move to a foreign country. So I had to go without her.
If there's one thing I regret, it's leaving that person who became so special to me in such a short amount of time. I'm here now, and I'm going to make the most of my time, but it's going to be hard without that special love so close to me.
A dog doesn't judge, doesn't care about who you were or what you did before they met you. A dog doesn't care what kind of job you have or how much money you make, and a dog doesn't get mad at you when you're having a bad day. A dog knows only how to do one thing: love.
I have a year full of growth and adventure ahead of me, but when all is said and done, nothing will make me happier than to come home to a hug from my dog.