To my rescue dog Xena,

When I first heard of you, I had no idea you were going to pop into my life. I fought long and hard to get Mom and Dad to let me have your brother, Bolt, and after five years of having him, I did not expect them to want to welcome in another furry friend. I hardly expected them to want to do so as a major hurricane that had just destroyed Puerto Rico barreled its way here, but they did.

Mom called me and told me you existed as I was about to come home. Here, I thought classes finally being canceled was going to be the best news I got all day. She sent me a picture of you in your crate and I did not even have to hear the rest. I knew I wanted to have you. Even if I had to force Bolt to learn to share and be nice, I knew you were mine.

Mom knew too and, after asking me if I was sure I wanted you—can you believe she had to ask?—we set off to bring you home. Bags packed, I met you an hour from home at some shady restaurant in the middle of Melrose. You were tinier than I expected and far skinnier than Bolt, but you wagged your tail at me and even jumped up to give me a kiss without any hesitation, and I fell for you.

I had no idea what you had been through leading up to that moment. They told us you were rescued from Hurricane Harvey only two weeks before, but that was all I knew. I had no clue your foster home had been flooded and that you were forced to float on a couch cushion to stay alive. I had no idea that you were covered in mud when they found you. All I knew when I got to hold you for the first time was that you were a very sweet girl who immediately showed me love.

What the wonders of unconditional love can show you.

You should have seen all of our faces when you first met Bolt. You were too busy sniffing him and already showing him you were the alpha dog to notice, but we were smitten by you. I felt my heart grow full knowing you were getting along with him. I felt utter joy knowing you were allowing us to give you a permanent home.

I was worried though about our future. About your future. We were not in the direct path of Hurricane Irma at the time, but I knew Irma was coming, and I was scared of how you would react. I saw you begin to tremble as it started to rain, and I noticed you begin to follow us around more skittishly than before. You probably thought Bolt was dumb for lounging around like normal. You also probably thought we were ridiculous for trying to get you to go out before things got bad.

That night when things did get bad, I will never forget the lesson you taught me. As I sat in bed, I watched as the path of Irma changed and put us right in the middle of a Category 2 storm and became afraid. I heard the wind start to pick up and I saw the lights flicker and soon go out, and I was terrified. This was the worst storm I was ever going to face. Even as an adult, I felt like crying.

But, then I looked at you. I saw you curled at my side, licking my arm, pawing at me to keep petting you, and I realized something. If a little dog like you could weather a massive hurricane like Harvey, I could get through this storm, too. Even though the wind sounded like a freight train and some trees in our neighborhood fell, you gave me the courage to get through it, Xena. You showed that you can weather any storm and find the happy ending after it if you just keep your strength and march on.

You also showed me, through completely trusting me to keep you safe during Irma, the power of unconditional love. You had known me for only twenty-four hours at the time, and you had just survived probably the scariest event of your life, yet you believed I would not let anything hurt you. You loved me. You blindly trusted I would protect you even when nature did its worst, and I will never forget that.

Bolt (tan) and Xena (black and tan) the day after Hurricane Irma hit Florida. Photo Credit: Laurel Swiderski

I remember it every time I see you now, whether it is at home bothering Bolt or in the picture frame on my apartment desk. You had the strength and love inside you to weather two storms no dog should have to endure alone and came out just fine. If you can do it, my warrior princess of hurricanes, so can I.

So can we all.