How our best friends made us best friends.
I’ve been living with the same guy for the last thirteen years. If that’s all you knew about us, you’d probably want to know our secret for making our relationship last.
We used to be together. You know, romantically. I worked for a producer who was developing his first movie. One night we got drunk, had sex, and the next night he took me to the Ivy. Guys in LA don’t usually do that, at least in my experience. We started dating. We moved in together. It didn’t work out and a year later, he moved in with a girl I went to college with, and I got my first job as a writer on a TV show. It seemed as if we were just going our separate ways and moving on with our lives like any ex boyfriend and girlfriend.
And then on January 2, 2009 I called him on the phone to wish him a Happy New Year and his voice sounded weird, confused. I went to his house and found him in bed in the middle of a very serious medical emergency. The ambulance driver took his vitals and told us that Aaron could have died if he’d been alone much longer.
And just when we thought we were out, we were back in.
Aaron spent a month in the hospital and everybody who came to visit and heard the story about what happened said the same thing.
This is a sign! You two were meant to be together!
I wonder if we didn’t live in Hollywood would everybody have to create this fairy tale out of what may have been just good timing and knowing where the house key was hidden?
Because it didn’t go well, this getting back together thing. Aaron was pretty freaked out about what he’d gone through, exhausted, too aware of his own mortality and annoyed by all the rehab and the friends who kept dropping by and calling all the time. He was even angry at me for saving his life.
I was trying to get a job after the WGA strike, which was nearly impossible. Our house was as depressing as a CNN broadcast. So we got a dog. I convinced Aaron who was still grieving over the loss of his dog that it was time to get a puppy. My dog Sally was already living with us and the puppy made us feel like a family.
But the happiness was short lived. My shrink got tired of hearing me complain all the time and suggested that Aaron and I should break up.
Oh and I can’t do that. Sally would miss him too much.
She laughed. I stopped going to therapy and my weird little family stayed together. Six months later I rescued a dog, we got a little happiness and then it went away. We moved to another house, rescued another dog, moved to another house, went through cancer with two dogs and one with liver surgery, lost them all in one year, moved to another house with our one remaining dog and got a puppy.
Top three questions people ask me about living with my ex-boyfriend:
- Do you have sex? Yes I do. Do you have sex? (I mean, is this really any of your business?)
- Do you date other people? It’s 2019. Is anybody dating anymore?
- Why do you live with your ex? Ah finally. An easy question.
Because of the dogs.
Aaron and I are Def-Con dog people. And not just the kind of dog people who find each other at parties and share photos of their dogs all night, or say things like “My dogs eat better than I do!” or “I’m definitely coming back in my next life as my dog!”
We are the kind of dog people who max out credit cards when our dog needs liver surgery. We are the kind of dog people who give up our day jobs to drive an hour each way five days a week for a promising new radiation treatment for our 11 year old dog with inoperable terminal bladder cancer. We are the kind of dog people other dog people call for advice on food, vaccines, trainers, pet insurance, supplements, allergies, dog photographers and animal psychics. And we are the kind of dog people who are better people because of our dogs.
Don’t get me wrong. We drive each other crazy and yell and bicker and push each other’s buttons and know where every single skeleton is buried and roll our eyes when we hear the same story for the millionth time and argue about bills and dishes in the sink.
But if you think about it, isn’t that pretty much everybody who’s been with the same person for a really really really long time?
Top three reasons we stay together because of the dogs:
- We don’t want to split them up. As much as I love to anthropomorphize all dogs, I know that we could all adapt if one of the dogs went with me and another with Aaron. But there are times at the end of the day after everybody has eaten and we’re all watching television and nobody’s arguing or barking that I just feel like this is my family and that feels good. Whatever it is, it works.
- We are too much dog people for regular dog people. Who else but a crazy Def-Con Dog Person would put up with my dog treat business that has taken over my house and my life because I have this Quixotic idea that I can disrupt the 2 billion dollar a year Pet Food Industry and wipe out canine cancer?
- Our dogs give us the opportunity to love each other. We lost three dogs in one year. It was (obviously) awful. They did not go gently into that good night and it felt like the grief was going to destroy us. But I also remember how much softer Aaron and I were to each other that year. I remember how easily he went with me to every oncologist in Los Angeles when Sally was first diagnosed (This is not a guy who likes to leave his office, much less his house). I remember finding out that he quietly sold his grandfather’s watch to pay for Manny’s liver surgery. And I remember watching him carry Rosie across the traffic barriers on Santa Monica Boulevard during the LA Marathon to get her to the emergency room. And I remember every time we lost a dog and it felt like Aaron was the only person in the world who understood how awful it was. And what a blessing it was when he would find me in the backyard lying on the ground and crying in front of our St. Francis statue. “Let’s go. It’s time to go drinking.” And that helped.
The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated. Mahatma Ghandi
The greatness of a person can be judged by the way he treats his dogs. Lisa Alden
What we have doesn’t make sense, I know that. That used to bother me a lot. I’d tell landlords we were a couple so we’d sound like more desirable, normal tenants. But just last week I referred to Aaron as my “Partner” to the Mountain Valley water delivery guy.
“I won’t be home tomorrow for the delivery but my partner will.” Partner? Who do I think we are, some kind of cool lesbian couple? But I like it. The word feels fresh and simple and right.
Because that’s what we are. Partners. We’re doing this life thing together, no matter how much we pretend that we’re not. (He loves to tell the same joke where he’d love to look for a roommate but doesn’t want to get murdered on Craig’s List.)
Oh he’s definitely a pain in the ass, and maybe there’s a chance that I am too. Ha.
But I like the people we get to be because of each other and because of our dogs.