I’ve been the proud owner (ok, my parents were technically the owners) of about 9 dogs in my 20 years of living. Sadie, Henry, 5 random dogs we found new homes for, Romeo, and Gracie. They’ve all been rescue dogs, and that’s my favorite part about this. They came from a background of being unwanted for one reason or another, then they fell into the hands of my family and felt that annoying baby-talk kind of love 24/7.
I mean, obviously we have to sleep and they pee on the floor and chew my favorite pair of running shoes and get into the trash…a lot…but you really can’t stay mad at them for forever. Here are things my dogs have taught me throughout the past two decades.
- Unconditional love. You step on a dog’s tail and all they do (okay, most of them) is nudge your leg and jump up for some scratchies like, “Hey, I’m okay, I want to make sure you are, too.” And they’re so submissive. You yell at them for eating that piece of pizza you left unattended? Don’t worry. They don’t hold grudges. All they want is love and most of the time all they give their owners is love. No wonder they’re so happy. I can hold a grudge for too freakin’ long, y’all. But when I look at dogs I just think about how I should be loving no matter the circumstances.
- Resilience. My childhood dog, Henry, also lovingly referred to as Hop-A-Long, Tripod, and Uncle Henry, was hit by a dump truck when he was 2. RIGHT AFTER WE PROFESSIONALLY TRAINED HIM. Anyway, he lost his front leg and had some brain injuries, but he was the fastest dog I’d ever seen. He took on wild animals (let’s not talk about the skunk), dug holes everywhere, was incredibly smart, and loved everyone/everything he came into contact with. He didn’t let his circumstances stop him from anything. And he had no fears. Except for storms. And here I am, 10 years after getting hit in the face with a soccer ball vowing to never play a game of soccer again. Being stood up by my late dog’s astonishing character.
- Don’t be afraid to lead a pack. Henry SOMEHOW came across 5 black lab puppies, and, I kid you not, they found a way into our fenced backyard and started following him around the perimeter of our fence in a single-file line. It was so funny. I always think, “If my dog can make rambunctious puppies follow him, then I can be a people leader (saying that out loud sounds like people-eater and it reminded me of this song oops sorry). It can’t be as hard as corralling little balls of energy.” But most of the time it is.
- Loyalty is a rare quality. My current dog, Romeo, takes his toy with him everywhere he goes. He’s nervous? Chewin on it. Going to bed? Sleeping with it. Going outside to pee? Taking it with him. He plays with a single toy until it’s frayed and the stuffing is gone. Amazing. I don’t know many people who stick around with their friends with that kind of dedication.
- Always be ready for something out of the ordinary. Between all of the dogs that have graced our houses, Henry had the most vet visits. We’d always joke that he had more lives than a cat. He lived through getting hit by a car, eating rat poison, getting his tongue stuck in a green bean can, and so forth. People are a little more predictable, but it’s always a good idea to have a game plan. Maybe you’ll walk in to a sudsy bathroom because your kid decided it’d be fun to fill the bath with a whole bottle of soap. Or your pet got into the trash. That one never fails.