Naming our dog was a very deliberate exercise. It was very much a product of my parents and me and my upbringing. We generated a list of 30 or 40 names and we methodically narrowed the list down over the course of a few rounds. Finally, we decided to choose one of two names, Rocket or Apollo.
If you know my family, you know we decided on Apollo – named after NASA’s Apollo program, which was named after the Greek sun god. Probably because my father liked it more than Rocket.
There are many days from my youth I don’t remember, but I certainly remember the day I met Apollo. He was only a few weeks old at the time and was just too big to fit into my open palms. He was supposed to be a “trial” dog that we were “babysitting” for a short time. But we kept him, much to my father’s chagrin (at the time, now he loves Apollo dearly).
I was laying, partially upright, on our family room floor with outstretched legs. He climbed up on my belly and put his head on my chest. In that moment, we became friends instantly. It’s my fondest memory of Apollo and it probably will be for the rest of my life.
In some ways, I suppose Apollo owes my family a lot. We did house him, feed him, take him to the bathroom and other typical doggy-dog things. In addition to that, my pup eats better than most dogs I know and is given a spot to sleep under the covers, in my parents’ bed, every night. All in all, he lives a pretty good life.
Truth be told, though, I owe Apollo much more. He was a rock which kept my family intact, in some ways. He kept my mother company while I was away at school and when my father was away working. He took my dad on walks and gave him things to do when he was unemployed and noticeably frustrated. By letting my parents care for him, Apollo was really giving my parents unconditional love and was providing happiness in their lives when I couldn’t take care of them. For that I am eternally grateful.
Apollo also raised me in some ways. I used to become really frustrated when I would have to take him to the bathroom, stealing precious minutes from doing my homework, hanging out, or watching TV. How rude of him!
I realized later that I was so very wrong. Apollo depended on me for his well being and I was really the one being selfish. I had to put his needs above mine. I had to be less selfish. This humbled me and taught me a dangerously important lesson: a successful life is not “making it” or being powerful, but rather a life in which you fulfill your duty and serve others. It’s not about lifting yourself up, but about lifting others up. Apollo is the unlikeliest of mentors.
At the same time, he taught me to stick up for myself…if he hadn’t, I’d still be waiting on Apollo hand and foot, err…paw and paw, and letting him walk all over me. I’ve had this thought hundreds of times, “No Apollo. We are not going outside, because you don’t have to go to the bathroom, you just want to play. Stop being a baby.”
We share little in common, except for our family, and an affinity for laying in the grass on sunny, breezy days. I suppose for Apollo and me, though, that’s all we really need. The bond between a man and his dog really is a special one.