I’m relatively certain that deciding to bring home a dog was the final nail in the “young people are foregoing freedom by adopting dogs” coffin.
Everybody, meet Lucy. She’s supposedly a retriever mix, but I only see one other type of dog that I can’t put here, because that breed isn’t allowed to live in most places.
Back in December, Ted told me for the first time he’s never had a dog and he’s never liked dogs. Red flag, am I right? I think you can tell a lot about a person by how they feel about a dog (this is a joke).
So I knew when I made the announcement that I’d brought her home that his reaction, along with others’, would be lukewarm at best.
“I can’t believe you got a dog.”
“This is the time in your life to be free!”
“What are you doing?!”
I got a dog. Relax.
My first reaction is to stick it to the man and argue point-by-point.
Why does any person, regardless of age, care that I adopted a dog? Why am I getting judged for such a normal thing?
I could go on and on about the “dogs are too much work and take away all of your freedom” argument that I’m seeing all over the Agenda’s Facebook and Twitter – and, ironically, coming from people with children (the most time-consuming creatures on this planet) – but this about sums it up:
My conversations that revolve around Lucy have never once involved apologizing for chewing someone, peeing on someone or having to apologize for her actions. She’s very well-behaved and mild-mannered around new people, except for when I leave her sight and she panics, leading to her simultaneously knocking over an umbrella and a bucket of water on Common Market’s patio. It was one time.
And yes, dog boarding can be expensive. But I’m lucky to have a set of parents, friends and a sister that will take her for me free of charge when I have to be somewhere without her. It’s not a big deal. Does it take a bit more strategic planning on my part? Without a doubt, but it’s not impossible.
Despite popular belief, putting my name on adoption papers and loading her into my car for the first time did not require the sacrifice of my freedom or my first-born child.
But my more rational, thought-out reaction is to explain why I got Lucy in the first place.
I’d been considering getting a dog for a month and a half or so. It felt like a growing itch that I couldn’t quite scratch just by going over to my parents’ house and playing with their dogs, mainly because their dogs are greyhounds and greyhounds are notoriously lazy.
My apartment didn’t feel empty, but it didn’t feel full, either. I credit this to the fact that I always had dogs, and lost the one I grew up next to late last year. To me, a home truly doesn’t feel like a home without one.
But it’s deeper than that and my explanation is about to get real. I suffer from a bad case of anxiety, the bouts of depression that often come with it and an overwhelming fear of creating roots and staying in one place too long. I make jokes about it a lot, choosing words like ‘neurotic’ and ‘psycho’ when that combination strikes, but in reality, the trifecta can be crippling. I needed to find something that would make me excited to be here instead of terrified and unmotivated to get out of my apartment and do things.
Moreover, I’m still relatively new to the city and it’s still hard to meet people. But instead of a conversation starter, I needed some form of companionship that was unconditional and honest and reliable.
Enter the Humane Society.
When I went to look at dogs, Lucy wasn’t even on my radar – a huge, 6-year-old Shepherd mix was. I asked to see her anyway, and within minutes, knew she was it.
But don’t think that this decision was easy or spur of the moment. I didn’t want to be just another South End Millennial with a Dog and Significant Other Hanging Out on the Rail Trail. I took into consideration finances, square footage, time needed to care properly for Lucy and whether it was a years-long commitment I wasn’t afraid to make. I didn’t sleep at all the night before I picked her up, instead compulsively cleaning my apartment top to bottom while I thought about every angle.
I could swing it, but I still wasn’t absolutely sure until I looked at this picture of the first time we met. Talking to a friend about it, I had to hold back tears while I described the amount of love I felt in that moment.
“It looks like she’s been with you her entire life,” my friend told me.
It was going to be okay, so I did it. I jumped.
And I am so thankful I did.
Lucy gives me all of the things I needed and more. It’s almost one of those “who saved who?” situations.
The type of love a dog gives a person is so different from any other type of love. It’s unconditional, it’s always rewarding and it never feels like too much. Nothing makes my day better than when I come home and Lucy immediately hurls herself into my lap and stretches out for a stomach rub like she hasn’t seen me in years and if I leave, she’ll never see me again.
Have we had our fair share of struggles? Absolutely. Like the time she ate a candle from Iceland that weighed a pound after unzipping her crate, tearing apart my living room and making my couch her personal lookout (this was a surprise, as I didn’t realize she was tall enough to reach).
But after the shock of any surprising situation (like when she almost threw up in my bed or when she relieved herself directly on the sidewalk rather than the grass) wears off, I’m always right back where I started when it comes to Lucy. I’m still beyond thankful for her.
She gets me up in the morning. She forces me to go outside and get some sunshine. She just makes me happy. She goes everywhere with me because I just love having her around.
Most importantly, she makes me a better, more selfless human being.
For the first time, I’m taking care of another living thing and putting Lucy’s needs before my own. Instead of feeling like I’m being robbed, it’s rewarding and meaningful and makes my heart swell.
So stop judging it and saying people my age don’t know what we’re getting ourselves into or that we’re sacrificing our freedom and the “greatest time of our lives.” For most of us, our dogs add to that feeling of living our best years right now.
(Please excuse her lower half – she was recently spayed.)