Not only are the pets we grow up with great companions, but they also have the ability to teach us some important things in life. While giving us the experience of taking care of another animal and being responsible for another’s life, pets also prepare us for upcoming changes and events that are bound to happen later on in our lives.
The days leading up to when we had to say goodbye to my first dog, Abby, felt long and futile. For what felt like hours I would sit on the floor with her, running my fingers through her silky soft coat. I didn’t want to believe that the end was near, and neither did anyone else in my family. Who would want to? When her time came, it struck my family notably hard, as it does most people when a loved one is lost. Not even two weeks after Abby, our other dog Jodie passed away in her sleep. Both of these dogs I’d had since I was born, and now they were gone. Born two days apart, passing two weeks apart.
As a child who hadn’t had to cope with the death of somebody close until then, it made the loss of my pets even harder than I thought it would be. Just a few days ago was the four year anniversary of Abby’s death, and I still have to fight back tears when I think about it. It’s not necessarily the thought of losing my pet that makes me sad, it’s just everything that went along with it. I constantly think “I could have said goodbye in a better way,” or “I never appreciated her enough.” Looking into my dog’s eyes for the last time before she was taken to the vet is the one image I have when I try to remember her. For some reason, I can’t seem to remember any other time from the 11 years spent with her – just this one moment that is the one I most wish I could forget.
Four years went by. Four years of no dogs and just the constant begging for one. Four years of always being told “no,” and that “I needed to prove that I could take care of a dog,” even though I was never exactly sure how else to prove it other than taking care of one, which was rather out of the question. It wasn’t until the last day of school of 9th grade when I got home that my hopes went up.
My dad had been browsing the local animal center’s Facebook page and found a dog that he felt he couldn’t live without. Her name was Daisy, and she was a beautiful six year old pitbull mix available at the Austin Animal Center. Long story short, a few days later we visited the shelter and didn’t end up getting Daisy, and instead fell in love with one dog – a blue lacy mix named Rihanna, who seemed like a perfect fit, all except for the fact that she was around three years old, and my mom wanted a dog older than 6. After much discussion, we wound up adopting Rihanna, now known by our family as Blue.
Fast-forward one month later: Blue is a happy, squirrel-obsessed, energy-filled dog in our home. On July 23rd, a picture is posted on Facebook by the Animal Center of an elderly chihuahua (who just made you sad looking at her) named Mahone, claiming that she needed to be adopted or put into a foster home by that afternoon.
So of course we took her in.
We never ended up adopting her, since we almost instantaneously figured out that Blue doesn’t favor having another dog in the house, but we did foster her for a little over a month – my parents often joke that Blue’s hostility towards other dogs is a sign that our family only should have one dog. The differences between the two dogs in our house, Mahone (who we re-named Violet) and Blue, taught me a lot about just how different dogs can be.
Violet required having somebody in the room with her at essentially all times, since she wouldn’t make it clear that she needed to go outside until about a minute before hand, which proved to be problematic, whereas Blue does just fine for longer periods of time. Violet did end up getting taken in by another family that’s now fostering her, since we couldn’t keep her any longer due to the fact that Blue needs to be in a stress-free environment for her upcoming heart worm treatment.
Being raised in a family where there were always dogs wherever I was – my house, my grandparent’s house, my aunt and uncle’s – I was spoiled by everything that pets gave me. They were a source of endless love and comfort – always there when everyone else seemed just be letting me down.
By adopting Blue, fostering Violet, and reflecting on the lives of Abby and Jodie, I’ve learned how not to take for granted all that pets do for us. I’ve realized that we’re all our dogs have – that we’re all they genuinely love and care about. That thought makes me want to give Blue as much attention as possible, for as long as I can. Sadly, heart worm treatment can be dangerous for active dogs like Blue, and it’s not 100% guaranteed that she will make it through the next few months of antibiotics, staying in her crate for the majority of the day, and frequent visits to the vet. This only makes me even more grateful for the incredible dog that she is and all that she has given me, as well as my family. Giving as much as you can to your pets is so important – after all, they do the same for you.
The animals in my life have taught me how to let go, cope with grief, and to appreciate everything that pets give us. I can’t imagine my life without any of the experiences I’ve had, as they’ve all truly shaped who I am today, as well as how I look at the challenges presented to me. Who would have thought that a dog could do that?