What My Aging Dog Taught Me About Life

What My Aging Dog Taught Me About Life

Pablo is another year older and I'm another year changed.

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When I look back on my twenties, I don't think immediately of my career. I don't think about my young marriage, the tiny brick cottage we lived in, my obsession with vintage clothing, or the bangs I cut myself one morning before heading to work in the dark. Rather, I think about one thing: Pablo.

Pablo is our bichon frise. This July 20, we celebrated his 15th birthday, complete with a homemade dog food cake, pepperoni candles, and a peanut butter treat. Our extended family gathered in our tiny kitchen to have a big lunch, shower him with presents, and play Pablo Trivia for door prizes. We didn't do so because it was necessary. We did so because every single one of us deeply wanted to. From my brother who initially squirmed every time the bundle of white fur hopped into his lap but eventually came around to adoring him to my in-laws, who took him in when we had two babies under three in our home and just needed a break, there isn't anyone in my family who hasn't found a reason to love that furball.

The thing is, he didn't use to have this much attention and this much affection. I found him while scrolling pet adoption websites on my lunch break one day about a decade ago. He was listed by a breeder who lived a few cities away. No, he wasn't one of her expensive puppies. Rather, he was a five-year-old dog that she didn't have the room or resources to keep. His owner had returned him to her before a big move, claiming there was no space for him at the new place. He was malnourished, matted all over, exhausted and weary of absolutely everyone.

In fact, he was in such disrepair that on our way to pick him up, the woman called us and begged us not to come. She said he wasn't ready. She needed more time with him. She had shaved him to remove the mats and he looked awful. He was starving. We told her we could be there in 45 minutes and that was that. We picked him up late in the evening and immediately wondered what we'd gotten ourselves into. We were fresh out of college, back from our honeymoon, and about to hit the ground running with our newfound careers. What were we going to do with a sickly and pitiful pup who was very obviously in need of so much more than we could give him?

We stopped for a fast food dinner that night and I remember looking out of the window at the dark night air. Pablo was in our car, shaking with fear though we had wrapped him in a blanket and it was unseasonably warm that night. We scarfed down our cheeseburgers afraid to leave him for even a moment. That would be the first of many instances in which we felt an inherent need to protect and be near Pablo. Looking back, that night was when our parental instincts first kicked in, though they've grown deeper and richer since the birth of our two children.

Life, I suppose, has a way of equipping you with things you never knew you had. What Pablo needed the most, especially during those first few rocky months, was unwavering love. He needed someone to give him belly rubs first thing in the morning and right before he fell asleep at night. He needed someone to sit with him and stroke his back while he ate his food. You see, he used to be in a home with lots of big dogs, and as the runt, he often went without food as bigger paws and bigger teeth inched their way to the bowl first. So, he didn't want to approach our bowl at first. I had to coax him and coach him until he was ready.

He needed someone to throw a ball down a long and winding hallway so he could have the time of his life looking for it around every corner and under every table. He needed someone to strap a life jacket on him and take him out for a day at the lake, playfully giving him his own pair of sunglasses and letting him splash in the shallow water. He needed someone to take him to the park and the doggie playground. He needed a family who would research bichon frises until late into the evening, learning all there was to know about his breed so they could properly care for him. He needed a mom who, the first time she left him overnight, would type up a three-page list of color-coded instructions for the temporary caregiver.

That was 10 years ago. Now, Pablo is 15. He lives mostly full-time with my aforementioned in-laws but we still see him weekly. They give him the walks, attention and constant adoration that, as much as we desperately want to, we just aren't in the season to give right now. For so long, however, Pablo taught me how to live.

He taught me how to not worry about how my hair looks or my house looks or what kind of day I've had. Rather, he taught me to run directly into the sprinkler, then shake off in the warm summer sunshine. He taught me the importance of lying on a warm backyard deck, looking up at the sunset and the emerging nighttime stars. He taught me that nothing tastes quite as good as an ice cream sandwich while running through a

He taught me that things are just things. He moved with us to three different houses. We started out in a tract home when we first brought him home. Then, we moved into a little cottage on the side of the road, then to my grandfather's house for a few years, and then back to that same cottage. Once, our basement flooded and I came home from work and burst into tears. My cardboard boxes of memories, which I'd stacked in the corner, were damp from every angle. Nothing was covered and nothing was redeemable. It was Pablo who leaped into my lap as I held our wedding album and tried desperately to dry it with a towel. He sprung happily back up the stairs later, as if nothing had ever happened, and nothing had changed.

In every house, he found the same spot on our same couch, propped up near a window so he could look out and see us when we drove home at night. He didn't care where we were, what kind of furnishings we had, what was on the walls or how long the driveway was. He just wanted to love on us as soon as we walked in the door, and love on us he did.

He also taught me that there is a season for everything. Pablo is my twenties, hands down. He is my figuring-it-all-out stage. He saw many nights where I'd flop on my bed and cry out of sheer exhaustion and frustration over my first real job. He was there beside my husband and I on that couch as we discovered the television series "Lost" and stayed up for three days binge-watching it like only newlyweds with no responsibilities really can. He was also there when my grandfather, who adored him, passed away just down the road. He saw a bunch of life during that formative decade, and I think it will forever be the era that shaped us both.

He is aging, now. I can see it. His formal prance has slowed and it's harder for him to get up or down a flight of stairs. He has cataracts in both eyes and cannot see where he is going. When I lie down beside him and rub his belly, I'm not entirely sure he even knows it's me. Does he know it's the same person who carried him on that five-mile nature trail when his tiny legs gave out? Does he know it's the same girl who rubbed his back all those years while he found the courage to eat? Does he know it's me, who snuck out of work early just so I could take him on a walk around our neighborhood during my one-hour lunch break?

Maybe, and maybe not. But I know. I remember even if he doesn't. And those memories and moments with Pablo will sustain me long into the future. He's a good dog if there ever was one, and I will forever be thankful that our stories intersected and I was allowed to bear witness to his.

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18 Realities Only Chihuahua Owners Understand

Tiny tongues, toys and tummy rubs.
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Being a Chihuahua owner is a task many are not cut out for. Chihuahua hearts are big but there owners' are bigger. From constant coddling to invasive snuggles, there are some things only a Chihuahua owner understands:

1. Tiny tongue in your nose.

Be wary. Look away for a moment and your Chihuahua's tongue will slide into your nose faster than you can say stop. Just to be clear, this doesn't end at noses. Other body cavities, such as the eyes, ears and mouth are also at risk for Chihuahua infiltration.

2. Cat toys are its toys.

When your dog is tiny, it needs tiny toys.

3. Burying.

If your dog is missing, it's probably at the foot of your bed... under the covers. Oh, your bed is made? You don't think they would have been able to nuzzle down without disturbing your pillows? Wrong.

4. Claw marks halfway to your knee.

Because they want to be picked up and that's as high as they can reach.

5. Belly rubs.

Lots of them.

6. The fact that your dog is basically a cat.

They play with cat toys. They're cat sized.

7. The fact that your dog is more like a baby than a dog, or even a cat.

Okay, scratch that. Owning a chihuahua is more like having an infant that needs constant coddling. If they could talk we'd hear "pick me up, mommy" all day long.

8. The shakes.

Shakes because they're scared. Shakes because they're nervous.

9. Any miniature sized objects become toys.

Wine corks, toilet paper rolls...

10. Constant crying.

They cry when they're too excited, overwhelmed or scared which means it's always eye-wiping time!

11. Snuggles in your body's crevices

Mere cuddling is not enough for these creatures. Snuggling is only adequate when they strategically place themselves into the most irritating curve of your body- like the arch of your back or the back of your knees.

12. Being judged for the type of dog you own.

As if all Chihuahua owners participate in this type of embarrassing behavior... not saying that I don't.

13. Little dog syndrome.

14. Rain is not your friend.

Let's not even talk about thunder. There's no way you're getting your dog out of the house for a of couple hours.

15. You can't count how many times your dog has been called the Taco Bell Dog.

Yes, we get it, it's a Chihuahua. No, it doesn't need a sombrero.

16. You never go anywhere in your house alone.

Going to the kitchen? So are they! Bathroom, no problem, they'll be there to support you!

17. 'Sit' probably took you six months.

Let's just say, at least they've got the cute thing going for them.

18. The stank eye.



Cover Image Credit: Rachel C. Baxter

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Save Your Pet And Do Not Buy From Hartz

Together we can stop this brand from taking innocent animals lives.

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I recently had the scariest experience and felt the need to share in hopes it can help someone else. I gave my cat 'Hartz UltraGaurd Topical Flea & Tick Prevention for cats and kittens' and it was the worst decision I've made. I bought the medication at Walmart, but it can be found at many retail stores.

Image result for phartz cat and flea prevention

Minutes after I applied the topical flea medicine to my cat's neck, my sweet Dory started acting extremely weird and aggressive, which is so abnormal. I started to watch her closely and then noticed she could barely breathe, her heart was racing, she couldn't open her eyes, and she was foaming at the mouth.

I immediately googled these symptoms and the words poison, toxicity, and lethal kept occurring in every search I made in regards to the Hartz flea and tick medicine for dogs and cats. These harmful medications included topical treatments, collars, and washes for flea and tick prevention.

The relations my cat had happened within 10 minutes of the treatment being applied. I can't imagine what would have happened if I were to of left for class or happened to just not of been home to know what was going on. Fortunately, my cat is so lucky I was home and able to get the product off of her as soon as I noticed these deathly reactions.

I have read almost 100 reviews of people tragically losing their pets from Hartz products. I am shocked that so many people have had such negative experiences with this brand, yet their products remain on the shelf.

DO NOT BUY ANYTHING FROM HARTZ.

I have included the link to a website I found that was made specifically for people to share their stories about their pets death, or near death, because of this brands products!

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