We moved back to Los Angeles in 2013 and rented a house with a doggie door. Bessie, try as she might, had trouble using it. Undeterred, she kept trying every day. Instead of picking her up, I gave her encouragement. “You can do it, Bess!” I cheered as she’d attempt to hop through the door. Then, one day she made it all by herself. Her tenacious behavior taught me that if you want something, you can’t give up on your first try. Sometimes it takes a hundred attempts—a particularly helpful lesson when I was first learning to stand-up paddleboard. Even though I was nervous about balancing on a surfboard in a river and paddling forward, my companions reassured me that it was so easy. “No one ever falls,” they said. Except for me. I fell once, got up unsteadily, then promptly plunged back into the water. Clutching the board to my chest, I wanted to give up and sit on the sidelines, but like Bessie, I tried again. And this time I didn’t fall.
My friend Alina joked that I was the owner of the misfit toys. Much like the broken toys that no girl or boy would want in the classic Rudolph Christmas movie, my motley crew of a cat and two dogs were fixer uppers of the pet world. I struggled to be a good pet parent. Sometimes I got impatient with Bessie or angry when Buddy devoured a week’s worth of kibble when we weren’t home. But what I loved most about adopting these misfits was their ability to adapt. They could go through blindness, obesity, and being abandoned by previous owners—and still give unconditional love. I’m not perfect, but neither are my pets and I adore them for their imperfections.