When I was little, I was terrified of dogs. All of them. The “cute” new puppy around the corner? Frightening. The Great Dane next door? Heart. Stopping. I’m really sure why I was so scared, but there was frequent screaming and jumping and running to get away from them- which of course only freaks the dog out or makes them think you want to play. I can only remember one dog, an Australian Shepard, from when I was younger that I could be around without freaking out. Now, I have two of my own.
When my family moved to Texas, my cat’s health was starting to decline and with my sister moving out for college, the house felt a little empty. We decided to get my first dog, Lottie, in my eighth grade year, after a couple of weeks of debate and a few days of research. I was still nervous- what if I didn’t like her? I wasn’t a hundred percent sure I was over my fear, either. As the weeks went on and we were sent her puppy pictures and we began buying all of her cute puppy-sized things…I got pretty excited. I had always been the youngest, so she was the first “baby” of the house for me.
Long story short, I fell in love right away; and when it came time to talk about getting another puppy as a companion to Lottie, I was very vocal about our dire need for another fluff ball. So along came Quincy, Lottie’s biological brother. The dogs haven’t just showed me how to have a pet- they’ve taught me a whole lot more.
Right off the bat, I learned that, no, it was not all about me. Suddenly there was a bundle of fur that needed to be fed, walked, loved, cleaned up after, and watched at all times. Although my mom did (and still does) most of the work with the dogs, I still had to do my share. Not only did helping care for her give me a small sense of pride, but it also humbled me and taught me how to put needs before my own.
Lottie also taught me that dogs- and other animals- weren’t so scary. All of a sudden, I found it easier (even fun) being around other dogs, cats, horses- anything. She taught me how to step out of my comfort zone, because I might just love it there. I remind myself of that whenever I’m faced with something new.
As we were preparing for Quincy, I expected for him to be just like Lottie because they share the same parents. This was quickly rebutted when we set him on the ground to meet her and he let out one low, long growl- don’t worry, they’re inseparable now. However, it became clear that, just like humans, everyone has a very unique personality. While Lottie is chasing her Frisbee around the yard, Quincy is off in la-la-land. Seeing them be so different but loving them so entirely equally (on most days ha) gave me a better appreciation for the vast variety of people around me.
Patience, as they say, is a virtue. Even as Quincy tears up my socks or when Lottie gets her paw prints all over my sheets, I look in their blue eyes and am moved into complete forgiveness and arguably submission. This was added in my life as well. I was more understanding, more lenient, and even more willing to help. I was anything but mean spirited before, but there was something about them that made me softer. Kind of like when the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes, but I felt like mine grew a solid eleven.
Finally, they taught me unconditional love does not just come from your mom or your dad, and to love unconditionally is the best thing you can do for anyone, whether they’re humans or not. I can honestly say I would run into a fire for these dogs, because no matter if I’m feeling on top of the world or ready to burst at the seams, they’re always there just because I’m me. The love I felt for them became so easy to share and show in my life and gave me greater expectations in relationships of all kinds. Now when I’m looking at friends, I compare them to dogs, because if a human can’t give unconditional love- they clearly aren’t a person I need in my life.
Maybe I’m just a dog person, but I think these are lessons we all need.