Amanda Holstien (3rd place. Creative Nonfiction. Spring 2011 Writing Contest)
I am not alone because at night, I sleep on my stomach, and my dog sleeps with his paws and his head resting on the small of my back. He protects me at night. In the middle of the night, when I am sound asleep, if he hears a car pull up or an unfamiliar sound, he barks and runs to the front door. I don’t mind if it wakes me up because I know his bark is three times his size, and if anyone unfamiliar were to hear it, they would doublethink messing with me. When I sit at the table for a meal by myself, he sits at my feet and occasionally licks my leg, but he never begs. If I leave to just check the mail, he lies at the door. When I arrive, he greets me with the entire world’s capacity for excitement built up and rushing out of him. He wags and licks and cries and jumps and bows down and rolls over. When I am sad or sick, he wants to play, and I don’t mind. He desires to serve a purpose for me in my life because my happiness, to him, is based on my satisfaction with him in our relationship. I play fetch with a 102-degree fever because I love him. It makes me laugh when I hide the toy from him and I see him scamper across the floors, searching: his nose up in the air, nails clicking on the hardwood floors, he comes back to me as if to say, “Just checking,” and then he continues his quest. He finds the ragged, de-cottoned stuffed animal with missing eyes and nose, and brings it back. I am not alone because no matter what happens, he always comes back.