“Look at that one. He totally looks like an Ewok.”
I looked at the dog my boyfriend was pointing to and he did, in fact, look just like an Ewok.
Getting a dog was the last thing J and I should have been thinking about. We were at what can only be described as a relationship low point. Six months earlier, we had made a huge step by pursuing our shared dream of long-term travel. We sold everything we owned, put the last of our belongings into a backpack and took off on a one-way ticket to Southeast Asia. The plan was to travel for at least a year.
But things didn’t work out the way we’d planned. Right before we left, J suffered a family tragedy and was struggling to process the experience. He retreated inwards, and the more he retreated, the more isolated I felt.
Being thousands of miles away from everything and everyone we knew, we needed to come together, but as we got further into the trip, we pulled further apart. We were fighting almost every day and what had once been our dream—to travel the world together—was quickly turning into a nightmare.
After four months, we made the decision to cut the trip short. We got back on a plane, tails between our legs, and headed back to the States.
We had hoped that returning to familiar territory would help us get back on track, but in the weeks that followed, things didn’t get much better. We loved each other, and we both wanted the relationship to work, but the distance between us seemed to grow wider every day.
About a month after we got back from Asia, we were walking down the street in Santa Monica when we stumbled across a dog adoption event.
We had always planned to get a dog after our travels; we are both huge animal lovers. Since things were still rocky, we hadn’t discussed it since we’d returned home. But as we walked by the event that Sunday morning, something made us stop.
There were about 15 dogs running around in a large pen next to the local dog park; rescue association hosting the event specialized in smaller breeds, so all the dogs were less than 20 pounds. Some were barking at passersby while others ran around in circles or curled up on one of the volunteer’s laps.
J and I walked up to the pen to get a closer look, and that’s when J saw him. The dead ringer for an Ewok.
It walked up to where we were standing, sat down and looked up at us with his big brown eyes. J picked him up, and, well … that was that. As soon as we picked him up, we knew he was our dog. We filled out the paperwork, went through the home inspection process, and returned to that same adoption event a week later to pick him up and bring him home.
Now, I know that adopting a dog in the middle of a relationship crisis isn’t the most responsible decision. It could’ve blown up in our faces.
But truthfully? It ended up being the best decision we ever made.
We named the little Ewok/dog Bennett, and from the day we took him home, it was like he was meant to be there. He fit into our life seamlessly; J and I love to hike and Bennett, despite his small stature, was happy to hike for miles and miles. We both work from home, and Bennett would split his day sitting at our feet, keeping us company while we got our work done.
The addition of Bennett marked a definite shift in our relationship. Of course, our problems weren’t solved the minute we adopted him, but things started to change. Our shared obsession over this new addition to our household brought us together in a way that’s hard to explain. It was almost as if, while discovering our love for this dog, we rediscovered our love for each other right along with it.
Watching J with Bennett reminded me of all the things I loved about him. He was kind. He was patient. He was loving. I rediscovered all the values and character traits that made me choose him as a partner in the first place; all the things I had allowed to take a backseat while I focused on our problems.
Bennett also brought us together in other ways. We took Bennett for long walks around the neighborhood, which gave us the opportunity to talk and reconnect. He brought some much-needed laughter back into our household; J and I would make up silly songs and dances to keep Bennett (and ourselves) entertained, making each other laugh until our sides hurt. It was impossible to be in a bad mood around our little Ewok, and our happier mood put us in a much better position to work on our relationship.
Every day there was more laughter, hugs, and fun and less arguing, tears and anger. Every day, we healed a little bit more, and fell a little bit more in love with Bennett.
We rescued Bennett over a year ago and today, J and I couldn’t be happier. We’re in the best place we’ve ever been in our relationship, and Bennett is the happiest, funniest, most loyal dog in all the land. We even started traveling again—this time, with Bennett in tow.
In the past year, Bennett has gone snowshoeing in Lake Tahoe, ran on the dunes of Cape Cod, visited family in California and Connecticut and made the move with us from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon, with a new home and backyard to call his own.
Before Bennett, J and I were a couple—and a struggling one at that. But once we brought Bennett home, we became a family. And while we’re not perfect, I can say with certainty that today, we are a happy family.
Deanna deBara is a freelance writer living in Portland, OR. You can follow her (and Bennett’s!) adventures on Instagram.