For Christmas every year a puppy was at the top of my list. I would daydream about the moment in the weeks leading up to the big day. Waking up, walking down the hallway and finding a chocolate brown puppy wrapped in a red bow under the tree. I quickly learned that dream was never happening, but there was always a small part of me that held out hope. Aside from a few month stint with a misfit pound mutt, my parents never caved to my nonstop begging. As I got older and made it out of the house I constantly tried to think of every way a dog could fit into my life, but I always knew it wasn’t the right time. I worked a lot in my late teens and early twenties, often juggling multiple jobs along with school, leaving no time for a social life, let alone a four legged companion.
I don’t really think my life ever calmed down, I just got better at managing my time, money and priorities. I grew quickly through some wild life experiences and learned the meaning of balance and happiness. I’ve always felt I struggled with friendships and forming real connections with people. Often feeling like I’m on the outside looking in on everyone around me. The close few friends I do have, I think will be with me forever. They seem to realize I’m a different breed and accept me for it, which is all anyone ever wants. Although they are all great in their own way, none share the same love I do for the outdoors. So needless to say I often spent my free time alone in the woods hiking, trail running and exploring the areas around me. Looking back, I don’t remember ever feeling alone, more like something was missing. As much as I loved the outdoors, some days it was difficult to find the motivation to venture to the same places over and over. I was well aware of what that missing piece was, I needed a dog in my life.
I started saving my $5 bills, spare change and even cashed in cans, trying to save every nickel I could find. If it wasn’t obvious, I was pretty broke at the time. Living in my basement, trying to pay for college and working a handful of jobs to stay afloat. About eight months later the stars aligned. I graduate college, received a promotion and finally adopted a dog. During our first meeting I learned she was a stray from Mississippi that was picked up as a puppy where she spent her days in a kennel until being shipped up north. She had a scar running across the back of her neck from a collar being too tight and her first time in a home was five days prior when she was fostered. Our first night together I did everything the paperwork said not to. We walked down town where I yelled at her multiple times for pulling on the leash, had to carry her across the street when she was too afraid to move then took her to an outdoor concert filled with people. I then tried to stuff her in a crate that night but her big brown eyes looked at me with such sadness, so instead I let her sleep with me.
I’ve still managed to do a lot wrong since our first day together. I’m not proud to say I’ve hit, yelled, tackled and shoved her when she’s misbehaved. Every time I lose control her reaction breaks my heart. Cowering and shaking as if I’d actually hurt her. She’s taught me so much about myself and how to be a better person. That my reaction to her misbehavior is just a reflection of my own insecurities. It’s forced me to dig deeper within myself, learn to control my emotions and overcome feelings of self-doubt. I’ve learned to practice patience with her mistakes and praised her accomplishments. In turn she has shown me unconditional love and has made every day of my life better since coming into it. The most important thing she has taught me is how to forgive myself. It was not until I forgave myself for prior mistakes that I was able to truly change my actions.
So many people told me not to get a dog, that it would be a burden and too much work. They couldn’t have been more wrong. I feel guilty when I don’t take her for a walk, I get up early so we have a few extra minutes to play before I leave, on my saddest of days she’s always there to snuggle and catch my tears. I’ve never felt unmotivated to hit the trails because seeing the happiness on her face turns every negative emotion around. The bond we have is special and something I am forever grateful for. I’m happy my parents never caved and gave me my Christmas wish because doing this on my own has taught me so much more. I believe things will come to you when they are meant to, the universe is a strange place, and there is no doubt we were meant to find each other.
Much love my friends,