Tom Hanks

"Where did his name come from?" 

Oh no. We must start at the beginning. 

Any of you who know my family well know that we didn't grow up with dogs. Sure, we tried it a couple of times, only to have our fears confirmed that everyone in the house was too allergic. The pet that I grew up with for the longest amount of time was a Betta fish named Tyler Perry (RIP) who lived a spectacular 2 1/2 years and died while I was at summer camp. 

It wasn't that I didn't like animals, necessarily - more that I was indifferent toward them. All dogs were to me as a child were slobbery beasts that shed all over me and made my eyeballs puff up like golf balls. Or, worse, yappy tiny animals that just wouldn't be quiet. I never felt deprived without a family dog to grow up with. 

Then I met Jordan. 

The very first time I went to visit his family in Lillian, Alabama, I got to meet Abby. Abby, a precious Labradoodle with big giant (very human) eyes, totally stole my heart and converted me into a dog person. I was hooked. I had to have one. And, thanks to the miracle of Flonase, I was now out of the allergy woods for the first time in my life.

This is us upon our first meeting. Love at first sight. 

From that point on, it was just a question of when and what kind of dog rather than if I would get one. 

On the phone one afternoon, while Jordan was still in dental school at UAB and I was teaching in Huntsville, we were ping-ponging names for my future dog. 

Editor's note - Jordan will tell you a different version of this story. 

Jordan: How about Brinkley?
MC: I feel like that is familiar to me already...whose dog is named Brinkley? OH! I know! It's Tom Hanks' dog's name in "You've Got Mail." 
Jordan: ...oh. Well, can't use that. Actually, why don't you just name him Tom Hanks? 

He then proceeded to send me a picture of a Goldendoodle (my dog of choice at the time) mashed up with Tom Hanks. It's terrifying, so scroll with caution: 

Told you. The stuff of nightmares. 

That picture made me laugh so hard that the name just stuck. 

In the spring of 2014, Abby and a black deeply in love....and she got pregnant with nine puppies. After weeks of impatiently waiting, they arrived. We got a text that the second one out, and the first male, was "chubby and had big paws," so we had a feeling that might be TH. Jordan and I happened to be at the beach 2 weeks after they were born, and it sounds cheesy, but the minute I held him, I knew. I also cried. Because as Kristen Bell says, "if I'm not between a 3 and a 7 on the emotional scale, I'm crying." 

Since that first day of snuggling this sweet puppy, I feel like my heart has broken wide open and I have an even deeper capacity to love. This dog is as much a part of our family as Jordan or me, and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

I loved his puppy breath. I loved how his puppy belly nearly dragged the ground after he finished eating because he's such a glutton (just like me). I love how, in a hilarious turn of events, Tom Hanks has allergies (just like me). I love his big deep sigh when he lays down for a nap (okay, again, just like me). I love how friendly he is toward new people and other dogs. I love his obedient, patient stillness even as drops of drool are falling from his mouth when he's told to wait before he attacks his food or a treat. I love that we can balance a strip of bacon on his nose and he waits until he's told to eat it. 

I love how I'm at my happiest when we take a nap together on the couch. I love his curiosity about Christmas lights and how he's a little scared of inflatable Christmas decorations in people's yards. I love how he's also, inexplicably, scared of pretzels. 

I love his just-out-of-the-bath run around the house. I love how he consistently burps on Jordan, but never on me. I love confusing passers-by as we yell, "Tom Hanks! Get back over here!" through a crowded park.

I love the steady sound of his sleeping breathing. I love how his paws twitch as they run through the open fields of his dreams when he's deep in a puppy sleep. I love how he always ends up with the last bite of food from our plates by gently resting his head on our laps at the table and gazing at us. I love how my parents have his sister, and two of our close friends have his siblings, too. I love how he doesn't care about squirrels or other moving targets, and will retrieve a ball, but then run it straight past you. I love how he knows when I'm sad and sits on my feet. I love his beard. I love the peanut butter that always ends up in his beard. 

I could go on for about ten more paragraphs. You dog people will know what I mean. Loving this precious pup has softened and changed my world in so many ways: snuggling him has made me more gentle; training him has made me more patient; just getting to sit back and watch him has made me more joyful. He's made me consider vegetarianism because I now deeply love animals and care about how they're treated. He's made me incapable of casually scrolling through Facebook, lest I find an article about a lost or abused dog.

None of my friends from Decatur can believe that I've gone from totally ambivalent about dogs to "crazy-lady-who-treats-her-dog-like-a-human-child." I can't either, really. But it was meant to be. This dog and I were always meant for each other. In a weird way, he's taught me more about what unconditional love is like - the "grow a brand new heart to accommodate all the new love you have to give" thing. I can't even imagine what having a baby will be like. I'll probably explode. 

So here's to the dog who changed everything. TH, the canine love of my life.

"Be the person your dog thinks you are."