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When it comes to close female friends, there is one cardinal rule: Never, under any circumstances, fall for your girlfriend's object of affection.
Go ahead and covet her new Prius. Lust after her black, strappy, rocker-chic heels. Even fantasize about her lush wraparound sofa with the washable slipcover.
But do not let yourself have feelings for the one she's with. Ever.
You may think the two of them won't last (possible). Perhaps you've convinced yourself the two of you would be better together (maybe so).
But the bottom line? She saw him (or her) first. Hands off.
I am a good friend. I would never go there. Not intentionally. But there are some things in life you simply do not choose – they choose you. And that is precisely how it happened to me. I fell head over heels, completely and stupidly, for my girlfriend's paramour. The mortifying part is that it wasn't her human love interest I was wild about, but the next closest thing – her day-to-day companion, trusted friend and constant protector.
Yes, I fell for Java, my girlfriend's 60-pound, drooling love-machine-of-a-dog.
I know what you're thinking, but this was no puppy love. It was real. Deeply, embarrassingly real.
I've never been a dog person. I don't remember ever begging for one as a kid. Sure, I sobbed at the end of Marley and Me, but didn't everyone?
Then I met Her, and something in me I thought couldn't possibly exist suddenly woke up, screaming: my alter-ego, unleashed.
It all started as a simple favour: dog-sitting for close friends during their Christmas vacation. They were planning to board their adored yellow Labrador and I figured that was no way for anyone, animal or not, to spend the holidays. Besides, it would be fun for my husband and me to play pet owners for the winter break.
"She'll shed like crazy," my girlfriend warned, giving us one last out.
When we didn't bite, she dropped off Java's things – bowl, brush, leash and a few little extras. Except for her crate, Java came with little baggage. She was uncomplicated and eager to jump into this, her tail wagging.
A caution would have been nice. Something along the lines of: "You may become deeply attached. Tread carefully."
I never would have thought I needed it. Frankly, Java is not my type. No canine is. I've never felt comfortable with the closeness (read: slobbering) that I've watched others share with their pets. That is, until She came along.
She's so easy to love – so carefree, playful, familiar – that I convinced myself our connection was unique. Surely she couldn't be like this with everyone? (Clearly, I should have read up on Labs.)
That first night, I put her in her crate to sleep. She looked at me as if I'd thrown her to the dogs. I knew what she was thinking: It was our first date; we'd shared so much. How could I?
The next morning, I took her for our first solo walk. When we bounded back in the door, my husband stared at me, taken aback. I was red-cheeked, invigorated – in love.
"Is that the first time you've ever walked a dog?" he asked, amused with my crush.
"Yup," I beamed. "First time."
What can I say? Java had a way with me. It was more than her alluring friskiness and never-ending affection. With her I felt connected to something bigger, something outside myself.
Henry David Thoreau writes about a "subtle magnetism in nature." Maybe Java was my foray into that world.
The truth is, I was a happier person with her in my life. How would I ever let her go?
When my girlfriend got home from her holidays, she was anxious to have her baby home. I was reluctant to watch my baby leave, not to mention nervous about seeing my good friend again. I was supposed to have taken care of her significant other, not tried to steal her away. It was the ultimate betrayal.
Eventually, the phone call I had been dreading came one Friday night. It would be a weekend break-up. Tragically poetic.
As I anticipated the knock on the door, my body suddenly felt awkward. I didn't know how to stand, what to do with my hands, where to look.
When my girlfriend finally burst through the door, her dog – our dog – couldn't contain herself. Hugs, kisses, an emotional reunion – but none of it with me.
I tried not to make eye contact with either of them, not wanting to get into a dog fight over whose love was more purebred. The answer was obvious.
The other day, I thought of taking Java for a walk. "Any time!" my girlfriend always generously offers. But I couldn't bring myself to knock on her door. I knew I needed to keep myself on a short leash. We needed a clean break. At least I did.
Lately, I've started telling friends I'm getting a dog. Yes, a yellow Lab. Fatal Attraction-esque, perhaps, but I don't care.
Next time, and there will be a next time, I'll be ready. When love comes my way again, I won't let it walk out the door on all fours.