Having a dog around was like breathing oxygen for me. My first dog, Chula, was by my side for 16 years. He had been there for me through everything: my teen years, my first love, graduating college, and moving out of my parents’ house.
After this recent heartbreak, I knew I needed the kind of love I couldn’t get from anyone else. After several weekends meeting different dogs, I found her: a shih-tzu named Peaches. It was the most fulfilling feeling: to rescue a dog and save her from the horrible life she lived before.
Little did we know, my furry rescue ended up rescuing me.
1. She taught me to take better care of myself.
In those dark days, I could barely get out of bed. I lost it all. I wasn’t eating, I wasn’t working out, I was drinking too much and I was hurting myself. After adopting Peaches, I found that taking care of another living being showed me how much I needed to take care of myself.
When she found joy in her meals, I did, too. When she basked in the sun throughout every walk in the park, I did, too. When she had to get her monthly grooming, I made sure to give myself a spa day as well. Paying close attention to her health reminded me to watch out for my own.
2. She gave me a reason to come home.
Living alone has its ups and downs. I get to walk around in my underwear and watch whatever I wanted on TV. But it was often lonely without anyone to talk to or come home to. When you love someone so much, your home becomes wherever that person is and when you lose that person, you feel as though you’ve lost your home as well.
Before Peaches, I found myself staying at my parents’ house more often, just so that I can be around people. I overstayed my welcome at my friends’ places and I found myself booking more trips just to get away.
With Peaches, I look forward to coming home. A night in with my girl and Netflix is always the better option nowadays. I no longer feel the need to fill my calendar with bar dates and movies just to pass the time.
I began to make more of an effort to clean my place, to really make it a home worth living in. My bed soon became my sanctuary for both myself and my pet, instead of this large hole in my life — the one I used to share with someone I thought would always stay. Her forever home became my forever home.
3. She taught me to be open to meeting new people.
When someone you love walks away from you, it gives you incentive to double-pack those walls with another layer for new people to break down. You begin to lose your trust in everyone, even those closest to you. Because you’ll never know when someone will turn their back on you the way he did.
Every walk with my new dog crosses paths with another friendly dog owner for chit-chat and small talk, something I always used to dread. Seeing a friendly face and introducing yourself to new people is now in some ways comforting for me. Every conversation breaks down that wall I’ve built up over the years — the one reminding me that not every new person you meet is going to be a threat.
4. She reminded me to live in the moment and forget the past.
When I adopted Peaches from Louie’s Legacy Animal Rescue, I learned she came from a breeder in Kentucky who gave her up when she was no longer able to have puppies. They assumed she was somewhere between three and five years old. After her first vet visit, it turned out that Peaches was actually 10 years old, giving her about five to six more years with me.
While I thought I was adopting a puppy, it only made me love Peaches more. I felt lucky to be the one to give her the life she deserves. She may have spent her early years forcefully giving birth to only God knows how many puppies, now is her time to live like a queen.
She reminded me that there is always room for recovery. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel and there is always hope for a better life. For me, I knew my heart had potential to heal. I knew my past didn’t make my future. I knew my life could be better if I made the effort, and with her, it was.
5. She taught me that love can always be restored.
Every time a relationship ends — whether romantic or platonic — that person takes a part of you with them and in that moment, it seems as though life will never be the same again.
When my childhood dog passed away, I never thought I’d be able to love another dog again. While it may be true in some ways or another, having loved another in the past should not limit yourself to love in the future. My love for my new dog is not quite the same as the love for my old dog; but nevertheless, it’s the most love that I can give and the best love I can ever receive.
On the days when I feel nothing but sadness and regret, when I long for the love I thought once was so true and everlasting, my dog reminds me of this new life I have with her. Without those bad days, I wouldn’t have come this way to find her and save her, the same way she saved me.
Without her, I wouldn’t have found understood the meaning of staying strong on your own, finding true love within myself, and learning to deal with the pain — in a healthy way. Without her, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today — the one who survived the storm, the one who is still fighting this battle every single day, and the one who is ready for any challenge to come.