It hit me late one night when I was enduring an ugly bout of insomnia. While my new guy friend was snoring in syncopated sound with this dog (who was snoozing and snuggling between us), I came to the realization that I was the third wheel in our relationship.

How do I compete with his furry friend? Ideas started swirling in my head like some frenetic slide show. Do I have to wag my tail to grab my guy’s attention? Better than wagging my finger, I reasoned. Grow two more legs? Play submissive to let him know that he’s the alpha being in our relationship? Yes, you are my master kind of thing. Plop on his lap every time he sits on the sofa? Show unconditional gratitude for feeding me?

My guy is a former boyfriend from high school whom I hadn’t seen in 50 years until one spring morning two years ago when I ran into him in the apple store. We got together a few weeks later for wine and talked non-stop for almost three hours. Throughout the conversation he kept alluding adoringly to A.J. who I assumed was his son. Au contraire. When I asked to see a photo, I discovered that A.J. has four legs. He’s a rescued chocolate and white miniature greyhound. How adorable, I said excitedly, and meant it because I love dogs.

I thought that affection and even sexual love had disappeared in my life after my husband died two years ago. Running into my old boyfriend was good timing. I really liked him, felt safe and trusted him. For four months, our relationship strictly was plutonic. And then it wasn’t. That’s when a large, looming and growing problem emerged. The bed became crowded. During our first intimate encounter as we were pressed together, locking limbs, something in the middle of the bed emerged from under the covers — a canine intruder. I shrugged it off thinking this was just one hoop to jump through in the early stages of what promised to become a strong relationship. But somewhere along the line, that idea got caught in the net– as much his fault as mine.

Soon, A.J. became more than an intrusion as he pushed me out of bed or continued to muscle himself between us. And there was a lot of nuzzle-based love going on between A.J. and my guy. One day I was talking to my guy friend on the phone when I said something funny. His reply (or so I thought it was his reply) was: “You’re so cute.” I started to say, “Thank you,” only to discover he was talking to the dog. This continued. We’d be watching a movie, he’d reach over to give me a hug and couldn’t because A.J. was wedged between us.

And if we were having a conversation:

A.J. Whining.

GUY FRIEND: “Oh how cute. A.J. feels left out,” he’d remark.

ME: “OK,” I’d say. And then to appease the dog, guy friend would start his pet schmooze.

GUY FRIEND: “Isn’t A.J. special?”

ME: I would snort something like, “Sure.”

A.J.: Snorting in agreement

Was I crazy to be envious of a dog? I was smart enough to know something was wrong with this picture but at the same time, I felt stupid for feeling this way. Clearly, I was not getting my needs met. Yet, the last thing I wanted to become was a nag like Anna Karenina when she begs Count Vronsky to love her best. Perhaps it was time to leave the relationship. Run the other way. Say, “Goodbye sweethearts.”

I wasn’t ready to do so. I rationalized how lucky I was to find such a terrific guy at my age who was my age and loved his dog. How could I throw that away because of his dog?

I’m embarrassed to say I’ve settled for the status quo and here’s why:

In an ironic twist, I am now completely smitten with A.J. When my guy friend left town for 16 days recently, A.J. stayed with me. We walked. I had a wonderful companion and a great way to meet new people who would stop me and say: “May I pet your dog?” or “He’s so cute.” A.J. and I played and, yes, he slept in my bed. We’d cuddle in the middle of the night and soon I, too, was cooing, “I love you, A.J. You’re so cute.” And when A.J. went home, I found it difficult to sleep those first few nights. I was sure to let my guy friend know how much I missed him, love A.J., and oh, yes, I love him as well.

Moral: By running into my guy friend way past age 50, I got two new loves in my life for the price of one.

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