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THE FRENCH & I Our story begins with an ending. In 2016 I found m yself com ing out of a 10-year m arriage, the com pany I had been with for the better part of a decade was m erging and the departm ent I ran was going away. The m ost im portant and influential person in m y life passed away, m y dear M am a Zoila. On top of everything going on, m y health took a turn for the worse, which led to heart issues. I sold m y house, m oved into a one-bedroom apartm ent, and for the first tim e, I felt com pletely alone. It was just m e and four walls, and I felt as if I couldn?t breathe and the walls were caving in on m e. You see, I am a U.S Veteran and even though m y ex-wife always told m e I suffered from PTSD (post-traum atic stress disorder), I always brushed it off and told her she was crazy. It wasn?t until she wasn?t in the picture that I realized what she did for m e to live a norm al life. She would go into restaurants and ask the hostess to sit us in a particular spot in the restaurant, we avoided large crowds or would get VIP passes to events to ensure I wasn?t in a place or position where I would start to shake and grow anxious. But in Septem ber of 2016, m y support system wasn?t there anym ore, and m y world was dark, and thoughts of suicide started to consum e m e. The confident m an that I once was had vanished. To the outside world, everything isn?t what it always seem s. I went to the VA (Departm ent of Veterans Affairs) to see m y prim ary physician, per usual they ask about m y m ental state if I?ve had any dark thoughts and as always I said no. This tim e around I said yes, and the first thing they tried to do was for m e to see a counselor, and per usual they prescribed m edicine. Sleeping pills, 30 | TEXASDOGMAGAZINE.COM

am ong other m eds. However, I am a deathly afraid of taking m edicine as I relate them to m y father who had Lupus and him taking so m uch m edicine that I correlate it as a bad thing. I left the VA outpatient clinic and found m yself even m ore confused. M y previous outlet for destressing had always been cooking. It rem inded m e of m y M am a Zoila and how she always m ade everything better with her food. M y love for cooking had vanished, everything I once enjoyed wasn?t anything I cared to do. As I sat in m y apartm ent staring outside the living room window, I started reflecting on m y life. I rem em bered the tim e m y father brought hom e two puppies, one for m e and the other for m y younger sister Jill. I rem em ber how happy I was, and how Spikey used to follow m e around, and how great everything seem ed with him in m y life. I went online, and found an ad for French Bulldogs for sale. I reached out to the person who posted the ad, and two puppies were still available. I first inquired about the fem ale puppy, but for som e reason, the m ale caught m y eye once I saw additional pictures and video. I arranged for an in-person m eet-and-greet with M rs. Johnson, then two days later I drove to College Station and m et M rs. Johnson at the Chipotle parking lot across from Texas A&M . THERE I M ET THE PUPPY THAT WOULD CHAN GE M Y LIFE Out of a Cadillac Escalade cam e out the m ost beautiful Frenchie in the world. One look from the puppy and I felt a rush of em otions that just brightened up m y world. I was so happy that I couldn?t contain m yself, and the look the puppy gave m e just m elted m y heart. I signed all the

paperwork, said thank you, and off we left back to Austin. On our two hour drive back hom e, I called out a few nam es to see which ones the puppy would respond to, M axim us I called out, no response. Napoleon, I shouted, nothing. I said Zeus, and he im m ediately looked at m e. From that m om ent he would be known as Zeus Wayne Hern. He left his bed on the passenger seat, cam e over to m y lap, looked up and gave m e the greatest sm ile ever. AT THAT M OM EN T, I WAS REBORN Zeus Wayne changed m y life, all of the negativity went away. For the first tim e in m y life, I felt unconditional love, and I found joy once again. I was like a child, I was sm iling again and I found m yself wanting to do just about anything to m ake m y son Zeus happy. I started taking him everywhere with m e, even to places where they don?t allow pets, but for som e reason, no one would enforce their rules. Everyone would flock to pet him , even push the cart for m e so that they could play with Zeus.

Zeus s av ed me when I needed a her o t he mos t At dog parks, we m et a lot of great people, we joined dog groups on Facebook and went to dog-friendly events. At alm ost every place we went to, I noticed m ost dogs wearing the sam e things. Finding clothes, or accessories started to becom e difficult as Zeus grew. To m e, Zeus was a one in a m illion. Therefore I wanted som ething different, so I began attem pting to m ake bandanas. I

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Texas Dog Magazine | Spring 2019