When I was a little boy, my mother and father had many different animals over the coarse of my 6-7 years before they got their divorce. These animals were always the pets of other people who lived with us, that my little sister and I were forced to take care of. My father, being a rather horrible person at the time that loved alcohol more than his own children, would give animals away that we had gotten attached to and while drunk- he would tell us horror stories.
For instance, my sister and I once took care of a pair of fluffy black and white rabbits. We took care of their cages, called them Sniffles and Fluffy, and raised them since they were tiny little things. We did chores to earn money to pay for their food, their cages, their toys, and the supplies required to bathe them. However, when they were fully grown, my father got rid of them. To this day, we still have no idea what really happened to them, but the night he got rid of them, he told us over dinner that he killed them, and we were eating them for dinner.
I tell you this horror story because that’s where my fear of getting a pet for myself stemmed from. Where my anxiety and depression festered and brewed as a young child. I had an alcoholic father systematically terrorizing my love of animals, telling me they left or died in cruel or heartless ways. Years after my mother divorced my father, she decided to take me to the pound and look for a puppy. He was a fluffy white border collie, with a light coffee creme colored fur everywhere except for his paws and around his eyes which made him look like he wore goggles. I fell in love and we adopted him within a week. Robbie was taken in to be my best friend in 6th grade. As someone who switched schools nearly every year, he was my confidant. My best friend. Someone who I could talk to, who wouldn’t judge me. Someone who was just happy to have me around.
However, my friendship was short lived with Robbie. During that summer vacation we had a horrible storm that had torn down our backyard fence in the middle of the night. I let him out, not knowing of the damage during the evening, and when I went to the back door to let him back in to go to bed with me, he never came. I never saw him again. I spent weeks looking for him. My heart was broken. I vowed to never get a pet again when my mother sat me down and said that there was nothing we could do, and she had given up hope of finding him. I never wanted to feel that pain again. That heart break.
On June 6th, 2006, after seeing the movie “The Omen” in theaters with my friends from high school, my mother picked me up from school. Already I knew something was off because she worked full time as a bartender in order to support her two children; this meant that she was always working by the time we got off of school, but since my depression had gotten worse and worse at home my mother attempted to surprise me with a puppy. She hadn’t told me where we were going or what we were doing until I started to panic when we took a back road outside of town near the old Hansen’s gas station. When we had parked the car in front of a run down home that looked like I could’ve blown on it to knock it over like the wolf blowing the hay house from the three little pigs story, my mom and revealed that she met a customer at her work who told her that he was selling sheep dogs but wanted to give it to her for free because of my situation.
I remember arguing with her in the car, telling her that I would never get another pet in my life. Crying. Remembering that pain that I had gone through so many times as a child.
My mother made me a deal, like all intelligent and manipulating mothers do. A simple deal, that if I walked over, saw all of the puppies and didn’t fall in love with any of them, we would turn around and go home. I stupidly agreed, like all ignorant pigheaded children who believe they can outsmart their mothers, thinking that my mom was a fool and my heart was a solid chunk of ice.
That day around 4PM June 6, 2006, I walked into a chain link fenced backyard to puppies clamoring all over me. 6 medium McNabb/Kelpie dark cocoa puppies clamored over one another, each trying to lick my face. Each trying to jump on my legs. Each attempting to show as much affection to the intruder as possible.
At this time in my childhood, I had already started to have an issue with my weight. I was nearly 200lbs, and I was a Sophomore in high school. I mention this because at that time, my self esteem was in the toilet. I loved to eat food.
As I was standing there, being a grumpy teenager, fighting back my hatred of my mother for putting me in this situation and my anger towards my father for how I was raised, I looked across the yard to see that the mother of these pups was trotting back and forth, clearly agitated. I initially thought it was because a stranger was near her puppies, but when I looked closer, I noticed that the mother was distracted and agitated because there was this extremely overweight white, cocoa, and toffee colored ball shaped puppy constantly trying to feed from her, completely ignoring the yard’s new guest.
The only way I can describe the feeling I felt at that time…is connection. I leveled with that pet mentally and physically. My heart made of ice began to melt. As it melted, the surplus water began trickling from my eyes. I pushed the pups at my feet away, and crept towards the food oriented ball of fur as if I were in some zombie like trance. He hadn’t noticed me sneak right behind him, and did nothing but try to wiggle free to get back to eating as I picked him up and hugged him, crying into his neck. When I sobbed for the first time, he stopped wiggling, turned towards me, and licked my tears.
Fast forward- I moved out of my mom’s house when I was 18. I got a job in a nearby town and lived in the world’s tiniest 1 bedroom house that I shared with a roommate, because it had a fully fenced yard. It was my space. Well, Mine and the not so little puffball which I had named Rolo. Since he looked like he had done nothing but consume the caramel candies that his coloring matched since birth. I met a man that moved into the tiny house in place of my roommate, and (in thanks to Rolo my opinion) managed to fall in love with him. This man, Patrick, was the first man I had ever dated that treated my dog as his own. I remember falling in love with Patrick when he came home from work one night and bent down on his knees and kissed Rolo’s head while talking to him in a goofy voice asking the dog how his day was.
After a year or so of dating Patrick, I learned that he had never had a pet growing up, due to a similar upbringing with his parents. This is when I immediately looked up a beagle puppy for sale down in Oakland, California- a dog he’s always wanted but never got. We went down south, paid for this white colored dog, who was nursing from his Beagle mother. It wasn’t until nearly 3 months later that we noticed the little rat dog we called Chance, never grew bigger than a Chihuahua and started turning to a slight brown color. He was the only one of the litter who managed to end up getting his father’s genes that….was a Chihuahua. However, my boyfriend had fallen in love with his new baby, and they’ve been inseparable ever since.
While we were going through the process of getting Chance, which was SUPPOSE to be a Beagle, I informed Patrick that I had always wanted a Saint Bernard. I had seen YouTube videos of them, researched them, thought about getting one, but never actually followed through with it. Patrick surprised me by getting the cash and driving me down to a breeder in Oakland (surprisingly), the week that we had found out chance was half Chihuahua. We picked up the baby girl and named her Kira.
One year later, the woman called us and told us that her Saint Bernard had puppies and she wanted one of them to go to a great home. After a short talk with Patrick- he decided to add to our family, and we made the trip yet again to southern California.
With every dog I have gotten, I became a better person. I started to overcome the childhood trauma I had gone through. I honestly feel as though every dog had lead me to another stage in my life right when I needed to transition to it.
With Rolo, he made it possible for me to not give up on Love.
With Chance, he taught me that some things in life you put up with things that annoy you, because it makes others that you do love happy.
With Kira, she made me realize that there is another human being out there who loved me as much as I loved them.
With our fourth dog, Brodie, I finally felt as though we had a family.
While they are the reason my trashcan foot pedal for my kitchen trashcan doesn’t work anymore. While they are the reason I am scratched and bruised every time I trim their nails. While they are the reason I trip because they feel the need to lay right behind me as I prepare dinner. While they are the reason we have to sweep daily. While they are the reason there is dried drool on the wall. While they are the reason pieces of kibble are dropped all over the kitchen because for some reason they can’t eat over the food dish and I step on it in the dark while getting a glass of water at night:
They were the reason I made my relationship with Patrick work through the tough times. They were the reason I wanted to do well at my job and make a decent amount of money (so I could afford a bigger place for them). They were the reason why my love of my boyfriend, turned into the love of my husband.
They are the reason why I giggle to throw a ball down the hall. They are the reason I stick to schedules via feeding, watering, and bathing them. They are the reason I feel relatively prepared to adopt a child. They are the reason I fight through the mental block I have today.
These dogs brought me back from the brink of suicide. These dogs gave me hope. These dogs not only changed my life:
These dogs make me happy to be alive.