I’m not ashamed to say it: my dog is my best friend.
You know all those mushy things people say about owning a dog – like the unbreakable bond and the unconditional friendship and the therapeutic impact and stuff? Turns out, all of it is real.
I fell in love with Chloe at first sight. To be honest, there aren’t many puppies I wouldn’t fall in love with instantly, but when Chloe first wagged her tail and hopped over to me, clumsily tripping on her own paws and sliding across the hardwood floor, I thought to myself:
Yup. She’s the one.
Since then she’s grown at an overwhelming speed, a concept that’s been difficult for both her and me to grasp. It’s hard to believe she was small enough to curl up in my lap just four months ago, but that’s where she slept on our way home together. She didn’t make a fuss. Or cry. Or squirm. She seemed comfortable and at ease – even with my nervous arms wrapped around her a little too snug.
Now, she’s way too big for lap cuddles, but her alarming growth rate has yet to stop her from trying.
I’d be lying if I said I never had doubts about adopting her. In fact, the timeframe between when I signed her papers and when I officially picked her up was terrifying.
It was only a 48-hour period but it was filled with panic, paranoia, and second-guessing. I became irrationally overwhelmed with doubt. It suddenly seemed too soon. Too rash. The little voice in my head called me a moron like over 300 times.
I was making the commitment to raise, train and care for an animal every day, by myself, for likely longer than the next decade of my life. What if I want to go on vacation? Or embark on a spontaneous weekend getaway? What if she gets sick? What if I can’t afford to pay her vet bills? What if I can’t find another pet-friendly apartment? What will it do to my social life?
To be fair, my concerns were (somewhat) legitimate for any 24-year-old. Luckily for me, I’ve never been great at listening to my voice of reason. And even though it’s gotten me into trouble more times than I can count, it’s what I’m most thankful for in this story.
Because the way I see it, there was me before Chloe and there’s me after Chloe (which, by the way, I refer to as B.C and A.C). To sum it up, the two versions of me are totally different. Chloe made me better for all the best reasons.
She became the center of everything in my life, my ultimate, everyday companion. Even on the days, she frustrates me the most, she’s the best decision I’ve ever made. Caring for her, loving her and simply having her by my side has really grounded me. She totally changed my life. Here’s how:
I inadvertently established a routine.
Giving my day to day structure has always been a shameful struggle of mine.
Mapping out my daily to-do lists, weekly grocery lists or monthly budget plan usually ends up being a waste of time. No matter what, I can’t help but take a detour somewhere along the way. For a long time, I felt like I simply wasn’t cut out for an organized lifestyle, and that was really frustrating for me.
Chloe immediately became my only 24/7 commitment. I was responsible for her under all circumstances. Giving her the attention she needed as a puppy seemed like an interruption at first, but soon enough, it just became a part of my day.
My life literally started to revolve around her. I blocked off time on my calendar to go home on my lunch break and let her outside. Before, I would have easily worked through lunch without realizing it, and probably also without eating lunch. Now, I drive home, spend 30 minutes with Chloe, grab something to eat, and head back to work for the day.
I even started waking up earlier so I could feed her and let her out first thing in the morning. I get out of bed, feed Chloe, let her out back, make coffee, take a shower, and start my day. Now it’s a routine I can pretty much do in my sleep…in that exact order, seven days a week.
As dumb as it sounds, the repetition of doing the same series of tasks every day turned out to be a really good thing for me. I was significantly less anxious and overall more comfortable with my day to day. I went from scrambling to steadiness, and it felt like I finally got my groove back.
Taking care of her meant taking care of myself.
I used to cook healthy meals, pack everyday lunches and snacks for work, write in my journal on a regular basis, make time for hobbies, and go for daily runs around the neighborhood.
But when something big enough interrupts your life, your focus shifts to account for its disturbance, and everything less impactful gets deprioritized.
That’s exactly what happened to me in the last two years of my life. But every time I wanted to get back on track, I tried to do it all at once. It was perpetually pointless. Like I said, your mind doesn’t have unlimited space for everything you’d ideally like to focus on.
I knew I had to whip my butt into shape soon. At first, I thought Chloe would get in the way of that. She was too big a focus to leave room for anything else. But instead, she turned out to be what helped me get there.
Giving Chloe the care she needed required me to give myself the care I needed. When I thought she should get some exercise, it wasn’t like I could just plop her down on a treadmill and press GO. I needed to be right there exercising with her.
She needed a new bag of puppy chow every week, so every week, I went to the grocery store. And just like that, I started filling up my fridge with actual food rather than boxes of leftover takeout.
Chloe’s well-being depended on my own well-being, and vice versa. As a result, she was my motivation for getting back on track, an accident I’m extremely thankful for today.
I learned what it means to look after another being.
I felt a sense of heartbreak every time Chloe did something that upset me. It was the kind that radiates through your body and makes you do the dishes louder than normal. Or blurt out exaggerated sighs and frustrated grumbles even though no one’s around to hear them.
I felt it the time she pooped on my Free People sweater.
And when she walked across my canvas while I was painting.
Ate my DQ sundae when I looked away for 15 seconds.
Chewed my Xfinity remote until it looked like it had a rare skin condition.
I honestly just loved her so much. I was trying so hard to be a good owner and to train her the right way. So when she disobeyed me or did something destructive, it really was hurtful. I felt like it was my fault, like I was responsible for it.
And to some extent, I was.
I mean, puppies don’t know any better when they piddle on the carpet and run after strangers in the street for the first couple of times.
But at some point, her cute, innocent puppy mistakes will mature into lasting behavior that reflects on me. That process taught me the importance of my role as her owner, and believe it or not, it made me realize how much I’ve underestimated the responsibility of being a real parent.
If you’ve never cared for a dog on your own before, it might be hard to see the connection. But raising a puppy really is a great way to get familiar with that kind of responsibility. It opened my eyes to the size of it all, and the crucial role parents play in shaping their children’s lives. Your choices, attitudes, and behaviors directly impact them, for better or for worse.
Overall, I learned my anxiety about screwing up as a single dog owner really isn’t justified in the grand scheme of parenting. I’d like to think having babies is something my future holds, but if Chloe’s taught me anything about real-life parenting, it’s that I’m certainly not ready for it yet.
She filled a void in my heart I didn’t know I had.
Even when she wanders a little too far from our back door, or eats a slice of pizza right out of my hand, Chloe really does have me under her spell.
Since the day I brought her home my life’s been more complete. I didn’t feel like I was missing something beforehand, but now that she’s here, I couldn’t imagine going back.
Have you ever started a TV series long after its premiere and wonder why you hadn’t watched it sooner? Or tried a new shampoo that worked REALLY well and wished you’d discovered it way earlier? That’s kind of what it feels like.
My dad always swore by his bond with our family dog, Rayna. He spoke about it with such high regards, with incredible certainty and honor, always claiming she changed his life in ways he didn’t think were possible. I definitely believed him, but I couldn’t fully relate to it until now.
That’s why I’m not ashamed to say Chloe is my best friend. Because coming home from work after a long day and being greeted with excitement and unconditional love every damn time, is seriously irreplaceable.
It’s hard to think I ever had doubts about adopting her, and that they could have potentially stopped me from moving forward with that decision. When it comes down to it, I don’t know what I’d do without her now. Every day I grow more positive of that.
The commitment, the expenses, the frustration and the chewed up belongings are so much more than worth it. And for the sake of wrapping things up on a super corny note, here’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned:
The only thing more rewarding than the love you have for your dog is the love your dog has for you.