Our furry friends can teach us so much about love...
Jason is my fiancé and I love him dearly. But there is also another man in my life. His name is Zeus. He's big and strong and loves walks and hugs. He is a real tender heart and he has been known to take naps with me on the couch when Jason isn't home.
Zeus is our German Shepard. He is a gigantic, 110-pound pile of love and fur.
Jason adopted him in December 2009. Last January, he ran after a deer when Jason let him out to do his business and was missing for 8 days. Those 8 days happened to be the coldest yet in Pittsburgh that winter.
Jason and I had visions of poor Zeus freezing to death out in the streets of Pittsburgh.
We canvased neighborhoods with fliers, fielded dozens of phone calls from people who claimed they saw Zeus and held multiple stakeouts in areas he was "last seen."
We were told by naysayers that we weren't going to find him and that since we only had him for a month that we should just get over it.
To this, we replied, "But, we already love him!"
To this, many people laughed at us.
As it turns out, Zeus found his way back to his original owner (3 miles from home) who didn't know how to contact us until he saw one of our posters.
So, Zeus was actually on this guy's couch eating bon-bons for 7 days while we thought he was dead or well on his way to like, Cleveland, or somewhere equally scary.
I don't think I've ever been as relieved about anything my life the way I was the day I was sitting at work and Jason called me to tell me he had Zeus in his arms.
Interestingly enough, Jason had the opportunity to talk to Zeus' original owner about Zeus' past.
It turns out Zeus was trained to be a police dog and was actually working with the Pittsburgh Police for 9 months before he flunked out. He was returned to his owner, presumably because he's too sweet and quite honestly just doesn't listen that well.
His original owner had, in the meantime, had adopted a Rottweiler and didn't have the ability to take care of two huge dogs. So, Zeus was taken to the Animal Rescue League.
And, then along came Jason and the rest is history.
Adopting Zeus, then losing Zeus, and then finding Zeus was incredibly stressful.
The losing of Zeus in particular put an enormous strain on Jason and me and our relationship. All we did was cry and sleep. We didn't talk. We didn't touch. We stopped being playful with each other.
All we did was wallow in sadness about sweet Zeusy being gone from our lives.
Pets add an interesting dimension to relationships. And, when we lost Zeus, it was like a piece of our hearts were missing.
After Zeus came home, Jason and I went back to our regular selves but this event made me think about just how easy it really is to fall into a relationship rut and stay there if you're not careful.
The event that put us into our rut was luckily resolved but what if it hadn't been?
Even the strongest relationships are tested and it's obvious that working through difficult times is a part of every partnership. Losing Zeus gave us a glimpse of what it would be like for us, two pretty tenderhearted people ourselves, when we face adversity.
And, as a result, we communicate better, we reach for each others hands more, we never spend a night on the couch in silence. We talk through everything.
The lesson to be learned is that whatever the catalyst is, make sure that when your relationship faces adversity that you don't take the easy way out like we did that first time we faced trauma.
Don't stop talking.
Don't shut down.
Don't stop being affectionate.
Feel your emotions. Let them spill out of you.
Find strength in each other.
And, if you have a sweet doggie like we do, give him or her lots of hugs and kisses and you might just find out that this furry creature that lives with you secretly strengthens your relationship.
Sally is a regular contributor to twoday magazine and also pens a blog for CBS Local here in Pittsburgh. Find her on Facebook and tell her how your pet has impacted your relationships...