By Laura Moore

Our dog is madly in love with the girl next door.  

When he sees her, he makes noises I've never heard before.

"I think Finn's hurt," I said to my husband the first time I caught wind of his moan. It sounded unnatural, sort of like a saxophone in labor, and I was genuinely worried that a coyote hopped our fence and indulged him in a brawl. My husband came in from the other room and peeked into the backyard.

"He's running with the dog next door," he said, laughing.  "I think Finn's fine."

Once our baby finished eating, I carried him to the back door and peeked out myself. Sure enough, there was our dog, scaling back and forth from one end of the fence to the other, slicing through branches smashed against the wooden posts, traipsing through flowers and thorns and sweet gum ball spikes. He didn't care what poked the pads of his feet, or prodded through his hair and pinched his skin. He wanted to run with Nina and so he ran, bounding through our yard, yelping and panting, pausing occasionally to slip his paw under the posts in an effort to reach the dog playing hard-to-get on the other side.

This happened a few times before I finally decided to invite our neighbor's son and his dog over for a play date. Finn's ardent quest for love just seemed too sweet to ignore, and I was hoping he would burn some energy running around with his new friend. My neighbor's son was equally as hopeful about the exercise, but admittedly--given the strange moaning emerging from Finn, and Nina's attempts to run away from the fence after a few trips up and down the wooden barrier--we were both a little nervous about how they'd play together. 

Hoping for the best, he leashed his little lady and trekked across our front yard so he could walk through the side gate. Finn followed their progression, squealing in anticipation like a baby pig. When he saw her disappear from view, he ran to the other side of the house, and sat by the gate with perfect posture, his heart racing, as he awaited her arrival. 

Once she crossed the threshold, she dropped her guard, and the two of them tussled immediately, tumbling through tomato plants, knocking down unripe spheres and loosened leaves. They rolled through patches of mud and bumped into the split rail fence around the patio, before finally making it to the grass, where they chased one another, running and pawing and panting and barking.

At one point, Nina rolled over onto her back, belly up, and instead of taunting her to keep playing like he does with every other dog, Finn rolled over with her, and the two of them rested there, side-by-side in the center of the yard, gazing up at the sky, fully exposed and defenseless. As sweet as it was, it only lasted a few moments before the two energetic adolescents eventually hopped up, lapped the water bowl a few times, and then proceeded to begin the chasing and tussling all over again. 

Every day since that day, our dog has looked for Nina. On a daily basis, he runs to the fence, peers through the cracks, and barks a few times just in case she happens to be visiting her grandparents. On two or three occasions, he has serendipitously run outside at the same moment Nina has emerged for a bathroom break, and when that happens--when Finn finally catches sight of his love--he wails, sprinting up and down the fence with glee. Amused, my husband and I venture outside and invite her over, and the two of them light up the yard with flying shrubs, clumps of mud and belly rolls in the grass.

This has been going on for eight weeks--which according to my novice math skills is something like fourteen months in dog years--and the sweetness of their interaction never fails to delight me.  Our dog looks absolutely foolish each time: out of breath, vulnerable, pathetic, even. But as he runs, moaning and cooing, I can't help but admire the purity of his pursuit. I can't help but smile at the fullness of his commitment to throw caution to the wind and broadcast his desire to the world. 

He doesn't care who sees. 

He doesn't worry if his efforts fail. 

He doesn't mind scratches and bruises and thorns along the way. 

He chases after his love with reckless abandon. He calls for her, cries for her, makes himself vulnerable for her, and as I watch him bound through the yard, I can't help but feel inspired by his shameless, raw pursuit of love.  I can't help but hope to be exactly like him, figuratively of course. 

See, far too often, the world narrative tells us to hold back, to be reserved, guarded, composed, patient and realistic. But when it comes to love, I think we need to be real. We need to surrender ourselves and be willing to look silly. We need to cast aside our pride, and disregard social games. We need to wade through weeds, triumph over thorns, burst through doors, chase after our hearts, and let ourselves get out of breath, surrounded by the swell of out-of-tune saxophones souring the wind. 

We need to risk failing wildly, so we have the chance to love completely. And if we fall flat on our face, then we need to get up and move on. What we don't need to do is change, compromise who we are, proceed cautiously, expect less or behave according to some pre-scripted list of directives. We need to be ourselves, our vulnerable, messy, beautiful selves. Our run-out-the-back-door and trounce on spiky balls sort of selves. And if we are, then the people who are meant to be in our lives will eventually come over to play. They will eventually enjoy every minute of running around and tussling in our yards. They will eventually lie by our sides belly up to the sky, basking in sunshine and joy.

Happy anniversary, J.