I’ve almost always had a dog in my household. When I was born, we already had a golden retriver named Maggie. My older brother was gifted Maggie for Christmas after my parents conceded following months of two-year-old him running around yelling, “doggy, doggy, doggy.” A few months later, I came along. When I was learning how to walk, Maggie was there to lend a tail. When I was still too small to get on the couch and join in on family fun, I used Maggie as a stepping stool (she was fine with this I promise). She wasn’t the brightest of dogs; if you threw a ball towards her, she would turn her head to watch it fly by and turn back to you with her tongue hanging out, entirely unaffected by any yellow fuzzy object. If you tried to take her on a walk, she’d go about 100 feet before she decided it was time to sit down and the walk was over. Honestly, all things agility were of no interest to her; she only ever wanted to be pet and to lay down–a lifestyle one could hardly judge. When Maggie passed at the happy old age of thirteen, it took a little bit of time, a PowerPoint presentation, and lots of begging before our parents felt ready to take on another one.
We got Rex when I was in 10th grade. Rex was the exact opposite of Maggie. He never stopped running, never stopped wanting to play, and was sharp as a tack. Anything you taught him he could learn in one go. He knew how to sit, lay down, roll over, circle, jump, speak, shake, play dead very realistically, and, perhaps most impressively, balance treats on his nose.
I was a very proud owner of Rex. I’d picked him out myself for my family. I was the one that contacted the breeder, arranged a meeting, and did the begging to get him in our hands. I took care of him as much as I could while being a full-time high school student, teaching him all of his tricks, taking him on long walks around the neighborhood, and, in general, showing him off. When I left for college, my younger sister took over much of those duties. She and Rex became the closest of friends. Every photo from home was incomplete without his goofy smile included and I soon had to fight for the title of “Rex’s Favorite Human.” Whenever I came home to visit, my favorite thing was that first walk through the front door when I could drop my bags, say, “wait for it,” and yell, “Rexxxx!” If he wasn’t already impatiently waiting at the window, I could hear him wreaking havoc as he leapt off furniture and bounded around corners to come greet me and say, “Hello! Where have you been? I missed you! Oh my gosh I’ve run in so many circles since I last saw you.”
Rex was crazy. He literally never stopped running, would bark until all hours of the night, and scratched through doors that led to the porch where he preferred to run his circles. He was one special dog, and I think all dog owners–and pet owners alike, I can be big enough to admit that I know people who prefer cats–understand when I say he took a piece of me with him when he passed at a tragically young age. It was an event I never want to relive again and one that led to my family feeling a hole so consuming that it was only a month before we had a new little puppy in our hands: Oliver.
Oliver is a now one-year-old Australian Shepherd who’s a little bit of Rex and a little bit of Maggie all rolled into one. He’s incredibly active, mischievously smart, and a huge cuddler. A few of Oliver’s antics have included knocking over his dog food bag when he was put on time-out in the garage and eating so much food that he physically could not continue, resulting in us finding him laying on his side absolutely comatose from the sheer volume of kibble he indulged in. Another time, my sister got out her speaker and starting singing, “I love youuu,” into her microphone. Oliver then rushed over to the speaker and glared at the buttons, confused as to how my sister’s voice traveled from where she was standing over to this mysterious box of sound. He responded with a howl of his own, the same one he uses to alert fire trucks that he hears them, and one that sounded impressively close to, “I love wooofff.” He also once jumped in the freezing cold Chattahoochee River after my mother and I let him off his leash for just a moment. When my mom yelled, “Go get him, Abbey!”, I had the chance to play the retrieving role in the human-dog relationship. I still remember the bite of the water as I rushed in to prevent him from being swept up in the current. Meanwhile, my mom was laughing, snapping this photo, and asking the dog if he was okay as I pulled him to the side of the bank and stood dripping wet with my teeth chattering.
For me, dogs mean home. Sure, I could get a dog in college. But, for a couple reasons, I haven’t ever seen it as an option. One, dogs are lots of time and money and those are two resources I seem to never have enough as a college student. Secondly, I don’t see it as fair to whatever dog that would hypothetically be. I don’t have the appropriate space or location to allow them to roam happily in nature, I can’t make the commitment to walk them every day, I would have to keep them in a crate the majority of the time to keep up with my class and work schedule, etc. And what happens when the entry-level job comes along? What if the apartment complex I’m looking into doesn’t allow pets? What if I have to stay later than the 9 AM – 5 PM regular and am away from home all day? Ultimately, my life doesn’t feel stable enough at the moment to take on a pet. I feed my love for furry friends by visiting local humane societies, asking for pictures of Oliver, and scrolling through funny animal videos on Instagram and Facebook. However, throughout my college experience, my dogs have been one of the things I’ve missed most.