My dad grew up with a dog that he loved to pieces. A German shepherd who ran with him through the forest and happily tagged along on all his adventures. A friend who threw himself in front of a feral dog to protect my dad and chased smaller creatures to his heart’s content. My dad loved that dog and growing up with that close friendship meant something.
My grandma told me a story of a dog that was half-wolf that she had for a while. How its eyes were ice-blue, and it was huge, even if it was the tinier of the pups. How well-behaved the dog was, or how it liked to be independent. My mom grew up with a dog too, a little terrier with a coat like night who would follow her everywhere.
Growing up with my dog Tiger, I was a timid little thing. Not much more confident than a puppy myself. I didn’t talk much, didn’t open up or have many friends. Got teased. Bullied. Pushed around. But my dog never cared about that. When I was crying or sick, I came home to a mini schnauzer with a thick coat of wiry salt-and-pepper fur. A fat little stomach, but a smile on his face, of sorts. Tongue always lolling, rolling in green grass and sleeping in the sun.
I love my dog. And that comfort? They’re always there for you. You never get a dog in a bad mood, not really, not unless they’re sick or tired or hungry. If they’re well taken care of, a dog will always light up when you get home. They return the love you give them and will snuggle in when you need a hug.
I left for college, and my dog got depressed. Really bad. Wouldn’t eat much, hardly slept. Didn’t move from the same spot on the floor, just staring, glassy-eyed, at the door. I guess I felt the same way. Away at college, from family and old relationships. Trying to figure out how to live in a new space that was…changed.
And I changed in other ways since I was younger, you know? Good ways. More confident. Able to speak up and smile in the face of hard times. I cut all my hair. I wore glasses when I felt like it because who cares if someone calls you nerd? Sometimes, it would take my dog a moment to remember me when I came home. We all change, after all. But then he’d recognize me and run into my lap, and it’d be the same all over again.
Growing up with your dog, you have a friend that’s ready to take on the world beside you. They have so much love to give.
And you have so much to give back.