My life with Tyra Banks
John Lennon was right: Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.
For the past few months, I’ve been planning the launch of a new website. My plan was to have three or four posts by launch date so folks could get a feel for the site. For the content. For me.
But then my dog, Tyra Banks, died suddenly.
And all those plans got put away for anther day. To lump the story of her life in with a bunch of other posts and pages just doesn’t seem right. Not yet. Not today.
To know Tyra Banks was to know a diva on four legs. She was a Scottish Terrier. And she wore both her diva-dom and her Scottie-dom with self-assurance and pride. On her first day of obedience class, the instructor went around the room and gave we humans a one-word sentence to describe their puppies.
“You have a golden retriever. Your dog lives to please you,” she said. “You have a German Shepherd. Your dog lives to play.” Around she went. To the poodle, the Rottweiler, the beagle. And then she got to Tyra. “You have a Scottie. Your dog wakes up every morning plotting to overthrow the world.”
She wasn’t too far off base.
Tyra lived her life precisely as she wanted, with nary a thought of compromise. Why would she live any other way? She was Tyra Banks.
If it rained, she would not pee unless you held an umbrella over her. If you bothered her while she napped, she would let loose with an over-the-top, “f%^k you” sigh that I haven’t heard since my sister’s adolescence. Tyra liked to start her day with nuzzles and cuddles. She would greet you by digging her head into your chest. She’d snort and wag her tail. This lasted about 45 seconds, 90 if she was feeling particularly generous. Then, without warning, she would turn her back on you and go stand at the edge of the bed. She had gotten what she wanted and it was time to move on.
Tyra came into a home where pets were not allowed on furniture. She left this world claiming first dibs on all of our chairs, a couch and two-thirds of our bed.
She was a surprise 40th birthday present from my then-husband, Kalin, and my mom. I hadn’t really thought about having a dog, but Kalin decided I needed one and, as usual, he was right.
I remember the first time we were alone. Kalin had just left for work. I closed the front door, walked into my studio, got down on my hands and peered into the way-too-big dog crate.
I had not a clue what to do with the teeny-tiny, 8-week-old puppy that was staring back at me. Did she need to pee? Was she hungry? Did she want a toy?
“Well, little girl,” I said, “It’s you and me. We’re just going to have to figure this out.”
And we did. For 3,582 days, Tyra and I figured out how to handle whatever came our way.
Tyra was there as my husband and I filled our home with love, friends and all the clothes (and shoes) a gay couple could want. She was there when my consulting business took off. When both my stepfather and father died. When my mother struggled with depression and migraines. And when I said good-bye to Boston (and two-thirds of my income) to move to New Orleans and figure out what it meant to “be a writer.”
Tyra also was there when the ghost of my great-grandmother showed up at dinner one night to tell me that I’m a shaman. Her revelation sent me on an 8 1/2-year tumble down a rabbit hole and into a darkness I did not want to know existed.
Tyra never left my side. Not when I spent those first weeks and months reading book after book, trying to figure out what in the hell a “shaman” was. Not when I came back from two weeks of doing Ayahuasca in the Central American rainforest 15 pounds lighter and a whole lot more confused. Not when I left my marriage and my friends left me. Not when I had my breakdown.
On the most terrifying days, Tyra would press her long snout on my leg to keep me from falling apart. And on those (many) days when I took the journey – and myself – too seriously, she would shoot me a look that said “pull it together, you drama queen.”
Tyra’s also been here as I have emerged from the other side of that rabbit hole. Into a new life in Taos where I have fallen in love with the mountains and a new partner and found a quiet simplicity that is abundant in possibilities.
There are several dear ones who have been here for some of what transpired these past 9 years. Only Tyra has been here for all it.
A few hours after we came home from Tyra’s final visit to the vet, my now-partner, Bryon, left for work. I closed the door and turned around to a house that hurt in its emptiness.
I had not a clue what to do. But I couldn’t ask Tyra. Not anymore.
In time, I know I will figure it out. We always do, don’t we? And, then, I know I’ll realize I haven’t figured anything out and I’ll start all over again. We do that, too.
But for now, the only thing I can think of to do, the only way I can launch my website, is to write about a dog named Tyra Banks. And let myself fill with gratitude that she chose to spend her life with me.
Wondrous journeys to you, little girl.
Brett Will Taylor is a southern storyteller whose previous column, Love NOLA, appeared weekly on NolaVie. He now shares his stories at Brett Will Taylor: A Storyteller and his Stories. Follow him @bwtshaman.