The Journey of Raising My Dog

I didn’t get a dog at a pet store or an adoption shelter, even though I begged my parents for one for years. Eun Mi—or “beauty and grace” in Korean, named after my best friend—came to me by chance. I was going through a lonely time in my senior year of high school when her owner abandoned her at my mother’s workplace. She came to me with a limp in one of her hind legs, a fear of loud noises, and a refusal to be petted unless my approach was very, very slow and gentle.

Besides the limp, she was healthy, with a voracious appetite, a love for chewing anything within reach, and boundless energy. The vet, who was fortunately within walking distance of my apartment, estimated her to be roughly a year old.

It wasn’t easy to care for her, but since I desperately needed companionship, the hard work was welcome. She chewed up shoes, barked at strangers and other dogs, and considered biting a sign of affection. She was often scared to go outdoors. The vet suggested she’d been through past abuse—her owner had abandoned her, and her limp was a recent injury, not a birth defect.

Day after day, I fed her, kept her water bowl filled, coaxed her into walks when she was willing, and cuddled with her on the couch despite her distracting attempts to lick my hands when I was doing my homework. I woke up in the morning with the newfound purpose: a dog for whose emotional and physical well-being I was responsible.

In turn, she brought me joy unlike any I had experienced before. Despite her trust issues, it only took a few weeks to gain her trust, until she would jump up and paw at my knees when I walked through the door, her tongue lolling out of her mouth. She never left my side when I was sad, and even if she did walk away, simply calling her name would get her to come back. She motivated me to go outdoors for walks and get up in the mornings to feed her. I was delighted to watch her limp heal, until she could easily jump onto chairs and tables that she’d struggled to reach when she first arrived in my home.

When I went to college, we bought an automatic food dispenser with a camera attached so I could watch her. I video called her a handful of times, although she didn’t seem to recognize me (this is normal—dogs may have trouble recognizing their owners when they’re distorted through a video feed, and their eyes struggle to track the rapid movement). I feared she would forget me, but when I returned home for winter break, she greeted me with the same elation as before, trying to climb up my legs and licking my palms. That made it all worth it.