In the spring of seventh grade, a mere two weeks before my thirteenth birthday, my father moved out of the house. By the summer after my freshman year of high school my parents were beginning to finalize their divorce. Over the course of that year, we had to move out of my beautiful home and while I was adjusting to a new home and neighborhood, my friends at school all began leaving me and there were rumors that I was pregnant. This was the height of my anxiety and depression.
While I was able to finally confide in a teacher, the problems ate away at me for the entire year and even until now. I knew my mom was upset about the divorce, but I felt like she had completely stopped caring about me. I was adopted into a family that didn’t even want me anymore. My brothers would yell at me or hit me, and I would be the one to get in trouble. I was late to school and cheer practice every day. I was the last thing on everyone’s mind, until it came down to who to blame for whatever bad thing had happened that day. The world was focused on everyone except for me. Once it became apparent to me that I was unwanted, even by those who originally chose for me to be in their lives and in their family, I realized that no one would think twice if I was gone. I had tried before to run away, but I never succeeded. This time, I was determined to make everyone’s lives easier, by completely disappearing. I grabbed all of the bottles out of the medicine cabinet and poured every pill into my hand.
Immediately before I was told that my parents were getting a divorce, my father bought me a puppy. She was brown and curly with a white stripe going up her chest, and she had perfect, hazel eyes that made me feel like I was looking into a human’s eyes. Instantaneously, she ran to me and looked into my eye, letting me know she was the one for me and that she would love me forever. In that moment, I knew that she would become my guardian angel, and for the first time ever, I felt unconditional love.
Kona was there for every good and bad moment of my life from there on out. If my parents were yelling at me, she was there to comfort me. If I was crying over losing a friend or a boy hurting me, she would lick my tears away. If I had a bad day at school or a bad cheer practice, she was waiting by the door at home to comfort me. Whenever I would turn on music and dance around the house, she was prancing right behind me.
That night when I decided that my mom would be better off if she found me lifeless the next morning, it was Kona’s sleepy whimper from her kennel that saved me. I realized in that moment that I needed to start loving myself for who I am and stop worrying about others. I needed to be there for her, because she had been there for me. My eyes were finally open to the fact that I was everything to her and the only thing she had ever known to love. If I took away the one thing she loved, she wouldn’t ever be happy again. I let her out of her kennel and she crawled into my lap. My guardian angel licked away my tears, and fell asleep with her head on my chest.
The next year, I transferred schools. Although everything from the previous year had been sorted out, I was thrown into a whole new environment. However, this time I knew Kona would be there for me. She was there through every new friendship beginning, and every old one fading. She came to my cheer practices, and to watch me at football games. I took her on all of my vacations, and she tagged along every time I left my house to run errands. My life began to revolve around this dog, just like hers revolves around me. Now that I am six hours away from her, due to living in dorms, I can only keep pictures of her and her dog tag. Every time I see these things, I remember why I push myself to live each day. Every day there is a new challenge for me to love myself, whether it is how I should do my hair, if I should put on makeup, if I look good in a certain outfit or if I am too fat, but all I have to do is remember that Kona will always love me no matter what I choose to do.
Through my time with Kona, I now know that in order for me to learn something, I must first struggle with it for a while, and quite possibly hit rock bottom. While I am still not perfect at loving myself, I know that doing so is more important than ever receiving love from another person. Kona displayed true and unconditional love towards me, when I felt unlovable. Whenever I start to feel insecure, or targeted, I think of how she showed me that I mattered, when no one else would, and I stop caring about what others think.
Pets may be special to people, but Kona and I have a different type of bond. She isn’t just my dog. She is my best friend, and my savior. Without her, I wouldn’t be alive. I may have gotten her as a result of a major storm that was about to wreck my entire life, but she was the absolute greatest thing that has ever happened to me. If I never got her, not only would I have no motivation to succeed, I wouldn’t have made it past that night.
With her as the reason I continue to do daily tasks, I don’t know what I will do when she is gone. I will always remember the lesson that I learned from her, but I will be at a loss. I am beyond blessed that I had her to get through high school and will have her to get through college, but who knows when she will be gone. So, for now, while everyone else is struggling to fit in, I don’t have to worry because I love myself the way I am, and I know that Kona loves me unconditionally.