My whole life, I wanted a dog.
I always loved playing with my friends’ dogs, and I always wanted to play with all the dogs I saw in pet stores. I always felt like my life was missing something by not having a dog in it.
On November 7, 2013, my dream came true.
We brought home a rescue dog who would be named Lexi Streetman. Lexi was a schnauzer mix in a bright pink sweater that said “call me maybe.” She was loud, playful and ran around the house barking her full head off. She was perfect.
Since we adopted Lexi, I’ve learned a few things. Here’s five of the biggest ones.
1. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do.
If I’m comfy in my nice, warm house, wearing my PJ’s, and it’s 9:30 at night, the last thing I want to do is get dressed and take the dog outside. That’s just me being honest. But dogs need you. And sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do because you are responsible for them, and you need to take care of them.
2. Consistency and responsibility.
Because dogs need you, you have to be responsible and consistent. You have to remember to feed them every day, give them their Dentastix in the morning, give them a bath weekly, etc. That all may sound like basic “duh” stuff, but when you’ve never had a dog as a child, it takes some getting used to.
Lexi does this thing where she likes to bark all the time. For no real reason. She will bark at dinner. Repeatedly. She will bark sitting in the living room. Repeatedly. She will beg you to take her outside, only to walk around and do nothing but bark at people for 10 minutes. Repeatedly. And let me tell you, her bark is not quiet. But barking is not all she does. Sometimes she will poop in the house. When Lexi does bad things and is being a bad dog, it’s important for me to be patient and realize she doesn’t know any better.
When I get upset, I raise my voice. Most people do. And sometimes I can get really loud. Lexi does not like that. You can see her visibly shake whenever I get in a heated argument with my parents. Because of this, I had to learn to tame my temper and not be quite as loud whenever I am upset. (Which is probably something I needed to learn anyway, but having Lexi helped.) I hate seeing Lexi scared or upset, so I do everything I can to try and avoid it.
5. Who to trust.
Dogs have an instinct about people. When they don't trust somebody, they will growl at them. When they like somebody, they will warm up to them. Lexi has barked and growled at many ex-suitors, and she loves my current boyfriend. To this day, Lexi has never been wrong about a person. (Except my best friend since 5th grade. For some reason, Lexi never warmed up to her.)
6. How to be happy for no reason.
We all have a little kid in us. That little kid is excited by the wonder of the world, and everything is amazing to them. Somewhere along the way, we get jaded by the world around us. We see so much evil, we lose sight of the good. Lexi, with her happy barking for no reason, reminds me every day that just being alive is a blessing. Being alive is a reason to be happy.
7. Stretching matters.
Every day when Lexi wakes up, I see her stretch and arch her back before she happily skips into her day. And every day when I come home, she jumps up on me and stretches her legs. After sitting in a stiff office chair all day, Lexi reminds me to never forget to stretch, because the benefits are amazing.
8. Playtime is important.
When Lexi brings me her bone to throw, a part of me smiles. It reminds me of how I used to throw the frisbee back and forth with my dad as a child. Lexi plays all the time. And I always see her little grin whenever she does. Lexi is a constant reminder that you need to do more than work hard - you need to play hard, too.
9. Protect the things you love.
When Lexi thinks the big scary mailman is coming to hurt us, she barks furiously until he goes away. When Lexi thinks the pizza delivery guy has bad intentions, she will growl and bark and show him who the boss is. And when a new suitor enters my house, she will be sure to let him know he has to get through her first. Lexi's protective instinct reminds me that you should always keep your loved ones close - and always keep an eye on them.
10. Be grateful for the people you love.
Sometimes, when my family and I are sitting around the living room on the couch, I will see the way Lexi looks at my mom. She will rest her head on my mom's leg, look up at her, and will smile. Her eyes are full of such love and devotion. Lexi isn't like people. She never takes our love for granted. And if she can do that, why can't we?
11. Don't leave people.
Lexi came from a difficult past. She was in a high-kill shelter and was less than an hour away from being put down. She was passed from foster parent to foster parent before she found her way to us. To this day, Lexi has problems with people leaving. She will whine and whimper whenever we leave. She reminds me how important stability is to not just dogs, but people. When you love somebody, and they love you, stay by their side. Don't leave them. It has lasting implications that can affect them for the rest of their lives.
12. Treat yourself.
Every time Lexi goes outside and pees like she is supposed to, she gets a treat. When she is quiet after we tell her to stop barking, she gets a treat. When she does what she is supposed to, she treats herself. Humans should do the same thing. When you do something well, it's important to remember to reward yourself. As the kids say these days, "treat yo self."
If I come home from work in a bad mood, Lexi still loves me. To Lexi, I am the best person in the world, even when I feel like the worst. She is loyal to me no matter what. Which brings me to the final, and most important, thing Lexi has taught me...
14. Unconditional love.
Even though Lexi completely drives me crazy sometimes, with her random barking and pooping in the house, when I look down at her sweet, loving face, something in my heart smiles. There’s something about the way that she rests her head on my chest and stares up at me, and the way she always jumps up on me when I come home. Even when she gets on my last nerve, I always love her. She’s my perfect dog, no matter what.