To this day, I still reminisce about the special event that took place at my school on September 25, 2015-- "Bring your pet to school day". It's almost as if I traveled back in time to preschool, where I would bring an item to Show and Tell periodically. The only difference was that I was a freshman in high school, and we were using our pets to learn about how animals interact and behave in different environments. Although we were supposed to use our animals to learn about Biology, I took this as an opportunity to show off to my fellow classmates the cool tricks my pet could do. The pet I planned on bringing to school was my baby guinea pig, Brownie. Being the size of a tiny bowl, the only trick Brownie could do was nibble carrots off the palm of my hand. Regardless, I was still determined to teach her some cool tricks to amuse everyone in my class. In order to prep Brownie for the big day, I tried to make her follow me as I held on to a carrot; she wouldn't budge. As I grew more impatient, I realized I was training Brownie in an environment she wasn't used to. Brownie preferred a more comfortable environment, a cozy atmosphere with more places for her to hide in, unlike the unfamiliar basement I was training her in. Once I moved her up to my room, she was comfortably running around like she'd been living there for years. As long as the school had a rug for Brownie to perform her tricks on, I knew she would be fine. But I was wrong. In fact, we weren't even allowed to bring our pets inside the school, but experiment with them in the school's parking lot. As I predicted, Brownie didn't move an inch. Although my whole plan backfired, I found it funny that I unconsciously learned how Brownie behaves in different environments, which was the purpose of the experiment, without meaning to do so! I simply wanted Brownie to learn some cool tricks.
Shortly before my husband and I officially moved out onto our own, he surprised me with a puppy in hand on the morning of our anniversary. Moving out, tackling college, and everything in between, I thought another huge responsibility was the last thing I needed. However, in reality, Oakley, the lab/Australian shepard/collie mix, was exactly what I needed to get back to "me."
He provides emotional support
One of the most obvious reasons is how much emotional support dogs, (and other respective animals) can provide. His paws have been accidentally stepped on, and he certainly isn't a fan of the forced flea/tick medication doses, but less than 30 seconds later, he is without fail immediately by my side again, tail wagging and ready for more kisses. Although he is not trained or certified as an ESA, it's without a doubt he has effectively (and unconsciously) combated random anxiety attacks or feelings of being alone.
He requires being cared for
You'll heavily judge every crazy fur mama, as did, I until you become one. Getting Oakley immediately got me consistently back on my feet and forced me to ask myself, "What does he need today?"Even simple, easy tasks like taking him out to run/go to the bathroom had me excited and forced me to find a motive in the day to day activities. I loved no longer having even the mere choice to be unproductive. Don't want to start your day? Well, Oakley needs his day started, so let's get moving.
He serves as protection
It's no surprise how far a dog's loyalty will go to protect their owner. For decades, specially trained dogs have had life-saving responsibilities assigned to them. Even being married, my husband and I's schedules vary significantly to where it is not uncommon for me to be alone. The slightest sound or shadow from outside our door immediately initiates barking. In the bathroom taking a shower? He's there. Knowing that Oakley is looking out, even when I get carried away with tasks like cooking dinner, always calms my nerves.
He's become something to look forward to
The nice thing about having Oakley is regardless of how my day goes, I know exactly how it is going to end. Whether I passed an exam with flying colors or got the lowest grade in the class, I know what waits for me when I open the door at home. After a long day, nothing resets my mood like walking into a face that is just as happy and excited to see me!
He encourages bonds with others
If you want your social interaction to sky rocket: get a puppy. No, I'm serious. You'll have people wanting to come over and visit "you" (let's be real… your puppy), like it's your last day on Earth. For me, this was exactly what I needed. Getting Oakley had family members constantly checking in to see how he was growing, learning, etc. Not only did this encourage more interactions with family and friends, but it also "livened" my husband and I's home life. Instead of the "normal" weekend nights consisting of Netflix and MarioKart, (which are enjoyable in their own respective ways), spending our nights playing Monkey in the Middle with our new four-legged friend has proven much more entertaining.
So ideally was it the right time to get a dog? Probably not. However, adding Oakley to my small little family combated anxiety and depression in ways I wouldn't have ever thought possible.
When I was a puppy, I saw different families come to get my brothers and sisters and take them home. I was sad, but I knew my day was coming. I knew that soon, I would have a family come get me. Then, you came. You picked me. I thought it was the happiest day of my life!
When we first got home, you let me stay inside. I thought I was the luckiest puppy in the world. But, I started having accidents in the house. I didn't know any better. I spent all day inside by myself; what was I supposed to do? I also chewed up a few things: sunglasses, shoes, and a hat to be exact. But, isn't that what puppies do? You fussed at me, a lot. I swear I didn't know it was going to make you mad, or I promise I wouldn't have done it. After a few days, you'd had enough. You took me outside. I thought we were going in the yard to play. I didn't know I'd never go inside again.
You took me to a tree in the backyard and attached a chain to my collar. It was so heavy. I didn't know what was happening. You left me a bowl of food and a bowl of water but nothing else. I didn't have a dog house or any toys. I heard you say that I didn't deserve it. I wish you knew how sorry I was. I hated being outside all by myself. I cried all night. I cried every night for a few weeks, but I eventually gave up. It wasn't doing anything.
You used to come to bring me fresh food and water every day, but after a few months, you began to forget about me. You gave me food and water maybe once a week. Do you have any idea how hot I was in the summer? Especially when you forgot to give me more water. The winter was even worse. I was freezing cold every single night. I'd wake up in the mornings covered in frost.
My whole body ached. Your kids would be outside playing, and they wouldn't come near me anymore. I had fleas. I didn't smell good. I probably looked scary because I was so skinny; you could see almost all of my bones. I was heartbroken. When you'd come outside, I'd bark because I wanted your attention. You didn't care... I lived outside on this chain for almost a year. I was hopeless. I was stuck. My heart was broken. I wished you loved me back.
Then, one day while you were all gone, a lady saw me. Neither of us knew it then, but the second she looked into my eyes, I became hers. She had a place in her heart just for me. She noticed I didn't have any food or water, so she gave me some. She was so nice. I got hugs and kisses; I had forgotten what those felt like. She even let me give her kisses back! The lady left, and I was so sad. I thought about her all night. Apparently, she thought about me all night, too. Because, the next day, she came back.
I saw her talking to you, but I didn't know what was going on. She walked over to me and took my collar off. I was a little confused, but it felt so good to not have my neck weighed down by the heavy chain. I jumped on her and gave her so many kisses. She didn't yell at me like you used to. She just smiled with tears in her eyes. She called me to follow her to her car. I looked for you, but you had gone back inside. I wouldn't ever see you again. This was actually the happiest day of my life.
She took me to her home, and she let me go inside. She put me in the bathtub, and I was scared at first, but it felt so good to be clean. After my bath, she gave me food and water. I ate and began to feel much better. She let me sit on the couch with her, and I fell asleep with her rubbing my belly. I woke up, and she took me outside. I was so scared I wasn't going to get to come back in, but I did! She let me come back in. That night, I slept in the bed with her. I was so happy.
This is my life every day now. I get to love her, and she loves me back. I am so thankful that she saved me. I'm not outside in the heat or freezing cold. I'm not hungry or thirsty. I'm not neglected. I'm not abused. I'm with her. I am taken care of.
I hope you never get another dog. You don't deserve one. But, thank you for getting me. Thank you for leaving me on a chain. Without you, I wouldn't have found my forever home. I wouldn't know what love is. I wouldn't get to love my human every single day. She loves me more than you ever could. So, thank you.
A Rescue Dog