Cosmo the Wonder Dog

This post is part of Reverb10, a project that provides daily prompts in the month of December to help you reflect on the past year and set your intentions for the year ahead. 

Today’s prompt:
How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

I spent most of today ruing the fact that I didn’t cultivate a sense of wonder at all in 2010. It was a hard year. Until September, we lived in the loudest apartment in New York City. It stank of the neighbor’s smoke (of the pot and cigarette varieties), and the hallway stank of the other neighbor’s trash, which she left in the hall in some misguided gesture of generosity. Worst of all by far were our upstairs neighbors, who stomped around at all hours, keeping even me from getting a decent night’s sleep.

I say “even me” because I am legendary – legendary – among friends, colleagues and casual acquaintances for my extraordinary sleeping skills. I am a master sleeper. So when someone’s footsteps are loud enough to keep me awake, or to wake me from my gentle slumber — you know we have a problem.

We spent the first part of the year trying to solve the problem — talking to our neighbors, to no avail; talking to our supers, who talked to the neighbors, to no avail; talking to the landlord, who kindly bought us a white noise machine, which had exactly zero effect on the deafening footsteps above. We finally gave up and began frantically looking for alternate lodging. It was hell. Realtors stood us up. We looked at expensive dump after expensive dump, with picturesque views of brick walls and the distinctive musk of misery.

Finally, after months of searching — months comprised of weeks comprised of days, all of which involved searching — we found a place, and it would be ours, beginning September 1st.

In the midst of all this, I found out that my aunt, with whom I am extremely close, has stage IV spinal cancer.

And on top of that, I was unemployed for three months.

People have suffered more — I know this. But for me, this was a lot to handle. The constant weight of concern for my aunt, and for her daughters, and husband, and my mom, her sister – on top of my own incredible sadness and confusion. The stress of constant job searching, paired with constant apartment searching, day after day, week after week, month after month, yielding nothing. Finally, the threat of disrupted sleep every single night, and even more, the lack of a reliable haven during a time when we were still adjusting to life in the capital of sensory overload, New York City.

It’s exhausting just to write about it.

But I held it together. I was strong. Until we moved, and unpacked, and were settled into our quiet new apartment, and then — only then — did I fall apart.

I’m still putting myself back together.

And so, this wasn’t a year full of wonder, unless you count my incredulity at the shittiness of New York real estate. Except that as I thought about today’s prompt, for the tenth time, I noticed there was this little creature named Cosmo lying next to me, his little snout on my lap. And a sense of wonder flooded through me, right then and there.

Cosmo makes himself comfortable

We got Cosmo when he was eight weeks old, three months after we got married; that was eleven years ago. He’s been there all along — that sweet face, that soft fur, that warm body, cuddling up next to me through breakdowns and celebrations and all the ordinary stuff in between: walks on the trail by our first apartment; his first snow (leaping like a dolphin in the waves); the first time we showed him the ocean.

I remember the first year we had him, I was walking him in our neighborhood, and he stopped dead in his tracks. “Come on, Cosmo,” I whined, giving his leash a tug. He wouldn’t budge, and I traced his gaze to a bird sitting on a branch above. The bird was singing, and Cosmo was mesmerized — what was this creature, making noise? I stopped and stood there with Cosmo, watching that bird, and a feeling washed over me that I couldn’t identify. Stillness, perhaps? Love?

This year, amidst the noise and pain and worry, there was Cosmo, curled up on the couch, chawing on a bone, leading me each morning on a lazy path through Tompkins Square Park — past jazz musicians and pigeons and squirrels, commuters with their coffee cups and stoners on benches strumming guitars. Getting me to stop and stare at trees stretching up into the sky, to notice the quality of light, to notice his tiny little legs trotting along, the beauty of this moment with just me and my dog…

The rest of the world can take a number, because Cosmo and I are hanging out, and we’re busy cultivating wonder, yo.

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8 thoughts on “Cosmo the Wonder Dog

  1. Amanda, I SHOULD be in bed but I took one last look at twitter and saw Cosmo the wonder dog and knew I had to check out your post. I, too, have a Cosmo the wonder dog!But first, I was really moved by your post. You've had a lot of hard stuff going on. And, it's true that others have had worse, and it's true that perspective is important, and it's also true that you were dealing with some difficult, stressful stuff. (Remember that list of the most stressful things? You've got several of the top ones right here.) Putting yourself back together? Yes, it takes time. Give yourself that. No judgment…you've made it through an amazing year.My Cosmo will be 6 next month, and we also got him when he was a puppy. I'm 40something, and he was the first dog I've ever owned. Oh, I love my baby! I'm such a dog person and didn't even know it! I told my husband I wanted a small or medium dog. He doesn't like those super-small dogs. We thought a Lab would be a good medium-ish sized companion for our son, who was 8 at the time and an only child who needed a buddy to tell secrets to. Cosmo's parents live up the street. The mom weighs 45 lbs. The dad is about 60. Cosmo, brute that he is, is about 100 pounds. And still acts like a puppy who doesn't know he's huge.I enjoyed hearing about your Cosmo–he is adorable–and thank you for giving me a moment to reflect on mine. They give so much love.Wishing you the best in 2011!


  2. Your post is beautiful!I wrote about something very similar. I, too, did nothing to cultivate a sense of wonder this year. So I wrote about when I first got my cat, nearly 10 years ago.Animals are such a wonderful presence in the midst of stress, confusion and pain.Thanks for sharing. I look forward to reading more. :)Jenny


  3. Do I ever remember "…picturesque views of brick walls and the distinctive musk of misery.", and adapting to life in NYC, the capital of sensory overload!I know some of these sentiments are commonplace, and that there are others who suffer more deeply etc, but I just love the straightforwardness and clarity with which you address them. Very refreshing. Glad you n Cosmo are still hanging, and cultivating wonder!


  4. Someone once said (I think it was probably Dr. Phil), that our problems are BIG because they are OUR problems. Sure, there are people starving in Ethiopia – but that doesn't mean that our problems are any less big to us. And that's okay. I loved this post. I loved your imagery. I loved the way your writing made me miss my own dogs who are currently living with my parents as I travel. BRAVO!


  5. Erica, thank you – it's so nice to hear that the pictures I was painting came to life for you! And I empathize with missing your dogs — it's the worst 😦 I hope you get to see them soon!Hilary, I'm off to "meet" Frisbee on your blog… as someone who greets every dog I pass on the street, it only makes sense that I'd start meeting dogs online, too 😉


  6. Walt – it's nice to know those not-so-romantic images of NY resonate… I feel like once you move here, you're supposed to love it and never complain. Not that complaining is generally a productive activity, but I don't think people talk enough about how hard it can be…But yes, Cosmo continues to help take the edge off 🙂


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