There are very few moments in life where you look into someone or something’s eyes and you just know they’re going to be a good, important part of your story. It’s just rare. Most of the time you look into someone or something’s eyes and you hope they don’t play any part in your story at all.
But there’s always an exception. That exception was my dog. When I met him, I knew he was going to be part of my life, in a good way.
There are many things in life that you can choose. And there are many things in life you can’t choose. For example, you can’t choose where you were born, but you can choose whether you lie about it on your Facebook profile. Some things just seem fated.
Among the many choices I’ve had in my life there was one that seemed to have been chosen for me. And that was my three-legged dog.
I didn’t want to get a dog. I was in my last year of college and I had enough to focus on, but my girlfriend at the time, someone who loved puppies almost as much as the internet loves cats, dragged me into a local pet store that was hosting a shelter. She ran off to look at the puppies and I, hands in pockets, walked around aimlessly until I saw him.
He was in his own cage. Our eyes met and I felt connected to this little guy. A sign on his cage said that his name was Jake. He was one-and-a-half years old and was a plot hound, a type of dog I’ve never heard of. He was brindle colored, which means he has stripes on him that make him look a lot like a tiger.
“You can walk him?” the clerk said, noticing that I hadn’t done what the other people before me had done, feign interest in Jake and then hurriedly rushed off to play with the puppies. I was still around. “Okay,” I said hesitantly. I didn’t want a dog, remember?
He was very shy at first. He stood up, sniffed me and then decided I was alright. When he was leashed he kept trying to rush away from me, only to find he was attached to me.
“He has three legs,” I said. I was surprised I hadn’t noticed.
The clerk looked at me nervously, as if I had found them out! “Yeah,” she said, meekly. “That’s so cool!” I exclaimed.
My girl friend at the time pointed out that there was a huge sign over Jake that said, “Jake – Three legs.” I had only read half the sign. I shrugged. “I’m only an English student. I don’t read signs,” I said. Probably could explain my driving record.
After walking him, I couldn’t say no. I fostered him for a night. He was perfect, quiet and just sort of laid around a lot. How could I say no? So come the next day, I marched down and signed his papers.
Dogs are never perfect, even ones that perfectly fit into your life. He ate shoes. So many shoes… He has what can only be described as an oral fixation. You can see him sometimes trying to bite the air and chew on it, his teeth chattering incessantly.
The first few weeks were okay, but I quickly realized he had a lot more energy than I had originally expected him to have. He kept running around the apartment and getting into trouble. Walking him was not enough, this guy needed to be run around. He requires a lot of attention, a lot of time spent playing with him; he requires a lot of toys to chew on to prevent him from chewing on shoes.
Since then, he and I have been through a lot.
He was there with me through my breakup and he was there with me after college, when I went to California, looking for work in that sunbaked land; and then he went back with me when I couldn’t find work and had to stay with my parents. He’s seen me at my worst and at my best. He’s accompanied me on hikes at the Grand Canyon and walks on the beach. He has been there through (forgive the cliché) thick and thin.
If you are considering getting a three-legged dog (or a dog with any of a number of limbs) there are just a few things to consider before getting a dog.
1. Do you like your shoes? Some dogs have a tendency to eat things that you really like.
That favorite pair of shoes, your favorite game controller or your favorite book. Jake went through many stages and the hardest stages were always the most costly. What can I say? He has good taste.
2. Do you like the easy life? Then don’t get a dog.
Dogs aren’t easy. They’re difficult, time consuming and can be very stubborn even if they’re missing a leg. People don’t recognize how much work goes into a dog. They get a puppy without thinking about what they have to do to keep them happy. Too often dogs have become status symbols or commodities, but they’re living breathing things that require your attention, care and love.
Jake likes to do things his way, you may not agree with his methods (see #1 above). You have to be firm, but nice about it.
3. Give up your time for your dog.
This can be the hardest. You can’t just leave work and hangout with friends, sleep over your girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s house without bring them along. Jake needs time to be walked and run around otherwise he’ll find other bad things to do other than chew on shoes.
Having a dog has been enriching and has helped me grow into a stronger, better person. Jake has been there for more and I for him. If I didn’t have him for the hard parts of my life, the hard parts of my life would have been even harder.
So remember dogs may be a lot of work, but they’re terribly enriching. Dogs are worth every moment. Jake has been worth every moment.
I have a friend who told me, before I shuffled off to California, that she believes that you have more than one soul mate in life. You have friend soul mates, too; friends and companions who will always be there for you. Nothing better defines my dog, Jake.