Can a Dog Really Change Your Life?
I grew up having and loving cats, and only cats. I can recall owning 9 cats from when I was 6 to 16, one of them is still living. I got him for Christmas in 1995. His name is George and he’s 18 years old. When my parents got divorced in 2000, my mom and I got 2 more to live with us in a 2 bedroom apartment in Broadview Hts. A few years later, after moving again into a condo in Aurora, we added one more, all three of them are still living. When I first lived on my own I was 21, shortly after my then boyfriend got me a cat, then another…and then another. A few years later, I took in a stray cat who was hanging around our house. Three of the four are still living today. This is a grand total of 16 cats, 7 of which are still kicking it, in my 29 years of living. So to say I wasn’t a dog person was a complete understatement.
However, in recent months my perspective has slightly changed, and by slightly I mean greatly. My now ex decided to get our daughter a puppy for her 7th birthday! He said excitedly, “You won’t be able to top my present!” Naturally, I wasn’t overly thrilled about this. Was this thought out completely? His first dog, while VERY sweet, isn’t trained and he’s going to add another one to the mix? Are we competing to have the best present? But after 2 years of learning how to interact maturely with him I bit my tongue and just went with it. Never did I think my life would change the way it has.
This is Lily, on the day we got her. August 18, 2013.
She was sweet, adorable and so friendly. She had big floppy ears and big round eyes. Her face was little but her paws, so big! Being the animal lover I am, I instantly liked her but was glad she was staying at his house, ya know- because I have two cats in my 2 bedroom apartment. I think it took about 3 days until she came to live with us. She now has the same visitation schedule as the kids do minus the sleepovers.
She was previously “owned” by a man who, unfortunately had a heart attack the day he got her, so his wife returned her the following day. She then stayed at the foster home for another month, until Charlie picked her out. Look at that face, who wouldn’t have wanted her?! She was meant to be ours. The home labeled her as a lab/hound mix but I shortly learned she’s actually a Rhodesian Ridgeback and I can tell you- this breed is amazing! So loyal, loving, sweet, protective, fun, silly, mischievous, happy. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with her, and vise versa. Charlie kept telling me I was trying to steal his dog and that he was going to take her back when she was 6 months old. Guess who’s 6 month birthday was yesterday? Lily Bear’s 🙂
I’m generally a happy person. I don’t like conflict, shy away from stating my opinion if my opinion differs from the majority, really hate to see people hurting, especially those I love and care for. I grew up as a people-pleaser; passive and timid yet still lively and full of wonder. This has caused me more harm than good, any day of the week. A tremendous amount of pain when I was a teenager and once again about a year and a half ago. Which is when I devoted all my time, energy and emotions into a relationship that was extremely unhealthy, manipulative and emotionally abusive. I walked away completely broken, empty & jaded but with a great experience I can now share. I am sharing this with you because of the following quote.
The details of the relationship are endless but it serves me no purpose to put them out there. I wholeheartedly, with what I thought were the best of intentions, gave too much of myself to a person who was not capable of doing the same. And once I learned this, I still kept giving & giving & giving until I had nothing left to give, all in hopes to fix or help or worse- change someone. I was faced with manipulation at its finest, judgment calls that I didn’t feel ready for, the toughest decision of my life and a heart that was broke, NOT because I was betrayed multiple times but because I knew, deep down, I could never make him happy. I was completely depressed, anxious, unmotivated, fatigued, and irrational but nobody really knew this was going on. I started breaking out and gained 16 lbs in 6 months. Being the “put on a happy face” kind of girl, nobody would have known any of this was going on. But it was and my spirit was broken. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just let go, like any “normal” person should. So, I started going to my old therapist again, whom I LOVE, and reading books to help me understand MY part in this. And slowly but surely I became aware of so many of my own issues that I had been neglecting which enabled a lot of the destructive behavior. I didn’t quite see the light at the end of the tunnel but the tunnel wasn’t pitch black anymore.
You’re probably wondering how this has anything to do with Lily. If you’re thinking it’s because she has made my life 100% better, my heart is healed and I am not affected by what I had gone through, you’re completely wrong. I had to look deep inside myself to start healing my own heart but in the process I gained a companion. A friend. Someone who listens and loves and has an open heart. A soul full of life, joy, compassion and hope. A dog I absolutely love and care for and in return I have received unconditional love and loyalty. I am not reliant on her to be happy which is the most beautiful thing ever. It feels like this is the first honest relationship I’ve ever had, as strange as that may sound. I’m learning to be happy on my own but she just so happens to be here for the ride. And let me tell you, she’s great company!
She has been the most beautiful addition to our family and we all love her beyond what words could ever explain, even my cats have welcomed her- well, kinda! We love her morning kisses, stinky farts, excitement when we finally get home, snuggles during bedtime. Her wide eyes, sweet and gentle nature. Going to the dog park and for walks around the block. Taking her to PetSmart and having everyone stop us because she’s so friendly and cute. Putting silly Halloween outfits on her. Watching her army crawl to us because she’s too tired or lazy to get up- so cute! And in return, she just loves to be with us. She loves waiting by the window or outside for Hannah and Christian’s bus to drop them off from school. She loves running errands with me, laying on my face when I’m reading a book and looking up to me for the “Okay” when she wants to do something. Even when she tries to sneak and eat cat poop (gross!), I wouldn’t trade her for the world.
Some people guilt their way through life. I used to be one of them. A lot of what I did was purely out of guilt because “I should” do this or “I should” do that. “I’m nice so I have to do this and bite my tongue.” You will do everyone a major disservice if you choose to live life this way. Because honestly, it’s not living at all. When your head and heart are free to act out of passion, love and genuine desire you will start truly living. And the reward of doing things out of pure love is more love.
So, can a dog really change your life? Yes. Yes, they sure as hell can. She has helped me learn to love again and that’s really something, wouldn’t you say?<3