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What Owning A Dog Has Taught Me

Updated: Jun 13, 2022

I had no idea that adopting a dog would teach me so much about life. Stanley is my five year old pitbull that I adopted from the humane society nine months ago. I’ll be the first to admit that it was an impulsive decision that I didn’t really think through; and this is not a good starting point for owning a dog. You see, my roommate of the last three years had a pitbull named Koda, and I adored her. My roommate traveled a lot during that time and I spent a lot of time dog sitting, which I didn’t mind because Koda was so great and so easy. She also spent 1-2 nights a week at her boyfriend's house, giving Koda and I our quality time together. Well, when Koda was 11 years old, my roommate and her boyfriend went on a week-long trip to California and I was once again on dog duty. Koda hadn’t been eating regularly leading up to the trip and I was to put her on a chicken, rice and applesauce diet, mixed with some dog food. She had been getting pretty skinny and we were all a little worried about her. But she seemed normal and was happily eating the food at first. Then she stopped. And then she started to act differently. Sometimes she would act up or seem weird while my roommate was gone and we always just chalked it up to her missing her, but this was different. We didn’t know it at that time, but Koda was dying. My roommate came home and took her to the vet where Koda got diagnosed with cancer. A week later and she was gone. In that week, we all watched her die. It was the hardest week of my life and I spent way too much time away from the house getting drunk. When she passed, I still kept spending a lot of time away drinking and writing. I sent drunk video messages to a lady I had a little history with and that I had been missing. I was just a mess. I spent the next month drinking, writing, crying, feeling and missing Koda. Then I approached my roommates about adopting a dog of my own. We looked at the dogs at the local humane society for about a week and one guy kept standing out to us–that was my guy Stanley. He was a big brindle pitbull and he looked like a big teddy bear. I was pretty nervous about getting a dog, and I knew that I was looking for something to fill the overwhelming grief that was left by my friend Koda passing so quickly. My roommates and I went to the humane society ‘just to look’ at a few of the dogs I had my eye on. There was a little hound dog named Chip that we looked at too but he was a lot and in comparison to how our first meeting with Stanley went; poor Chip never had a real shot. Stanley was so loving and so happy to see us. He immediately stole our hearts. We took him on a little walk and hung out with him in one of those humane society dog rooms for 20-30 minutes. We decided to go pickup my roommate's doberman and see if they would get along. We drove home, swooped up Onyx, and had the two dogs meet. At first they were hesitant of each other and kept peeing over each other's piss. They eventually felt each other out and got along nicely. Well, I decided to take Stanley home with me that day. He was expensive and I spent my last dollar that month on the adoption fee, dog food and a few other necessities. He was so affectionate, he didn’t bark and he was so mellow. I couldn’t really imagine a dog that fit into my life any better at that time then he did. He helped us all heal from losing Koda. But I really had no idea what I was getting into by adopting a dog. Let me take some time here and explain a little about myself and then what Stanley has taught me.

I am 29 years old and have never been in a relationship. I’ve spent my life doing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I had no responsibilities to anyone else, and to be honest, I liked it that way. This is something like a child’s mindset and I see it in this country in young men and women constantly. We want our freedom to seek our pleasures whenever we want to. It’s one of the many influences the American culture has on young people. I spent a lot of nights getting stoned and drinking, and you can’t have too many responsibilities when partaking in these hobbies. I also had a dream of being a professional MMA fighter and spent an insane amount of time working out and training. That was my sense of purpose and that was where I got my fulfillment in life. I considered a day without training ‘a waste of a day.’ I wanted to be one of the best fighters of all time and I believed in working as hard as I could to do it. That was the only way. In my mind, I had no time for a dog, a girlfriend, or an abundance of responsibility. I had blinders on and I couldn't see past my goals for myself. It truly was a very selfish mindset and a very selfish life. I didn’t think it was a good idea for a single man, who lived in small apartments, and worked 10 hours a day, to own a dog. I didn’t think that would be fair to a dog, and maybe I was right about that. A cat might’ve been okay, but not a dog. So fast forward to today, and I’ve had to change my lifestyle to accommodate Stanley; and at first, I just adored having Stanley around and his neediness and constant desire to lay on top of me was sweet, but after a few months, I started to get annoyed with the responsibility of having him. I resented him for just being mine. I had the mindset that he was now ‘taking up my free-time’. I’d have to get off work and immediately drive home to feed and walk him, and some days I didn’t feel like doing it. It felt like he was taking away the time I’d usually feed my goals with. Frankly, I just didn’t like the responsibility of owning a dog. But here’s the thing, Stanley is such a good dog. Like I said before, I can’t imagine a better dog for me. I kept telling myself that, ‘he’s such a great and easy dog, there’s no excuse for you to resent him’. Stanley became so attached to me, he follows me from room to room and is always giving me the ‘sad eyes’, begging for attention. At times, this seemed like a lot, and I didn’t really realize that it was my responsibility to train him to not be as needy. I fed into his neediness at first and then I was trying to back track, and that wasn’t fair to him. I also had the realization that just because a dog is yours, they aren’t always going to behave how you want them too. Dog’s, like all living beings, are their own thing, and you can’t force a dog (or a person) to be exactly what you want. There has to be a compromise in any relationship. I had to work with Stanley but also understand that he had five years of life before me and I had no clue what happened to him in those five years. Getting annoyed because a wonderful dog isn’t exactly what you want him to be, well that’s the selfish mindset I had to shed. I learned how to appreciate Stanley for who he is but also understand that we will be constantly working with each other in order to have a healthy relationship. I have another life that depends on me, and I had to be the ‘dog dad’ that he deserved to have. I had to grow up. And now, 9 months after adopting him, I can look back and see what Stanley has taught me. He taught me patience, understanding, responsibility, love, selflessness and what it’s like to learn and grow with another living being. It feels like owning Stanley has taught me lessons on how to someday be a good husband and also, a good father. I adore my dog now and I can’t ever imagine giving him up, or, like Koda, I can’t imagine what it’ll be like to lose him some day. Even as I type this, tears fill my eyes thinking about Stanley passing like Koda did. I didn’t give up any of my dreams or passions by adopting a dog, instead, Stanley has taught me how to be a little less selfish, while still pursuing my dreams, and that I don’t have to sacrifice that much in order to have that responsibility. He’s really shown me that those little sacrifices are absolutely worth it to have a healthy relationship with him. I wish I could’ve known him when he was a puppy and a little less sleepy, but still, something feels like we came into each others lives at the exact right time, and that he was meant to be my dog and I was meant to be his Dad…

I’d like to take a second and just say that I would not have been able to own Stanley, and learn these life lessons, if it wasn’t for my amazing roommates, Dylan and Mariah. They’ve helped me out so much and they truly love Stanley. They are about to be parents themselves and I know they will be great. And I am going to stick around and support them and help them out being parents, just like they have been doing for me. I’d like to thank Koda, if it wasn’t for her being such a good friend, I never would’ve wanted to own a dog. Rest in peace my sweet friend and thank you so much for the time I got with you. And lastly, I’d like to thank my guy Stanley, thank you for being the perfect dog for me. A human/animal relationship really is something special.

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