Last year, I acquired a dog.
I’d never had a pet before, beyond the occasional beta fish. In fact, as a kid, I was pretty scared of dogs. I mean, I was scared of a lot of things. I was scared that if I didn’t have an equal number of hair ties on each wrist my arms would grow lopsided. I was also scared that if I didn’t have hair ties the zombie apocalypse would break out and my free-flowing hair would get me killed somehow and my last thought would be “Damn, I wish I had had a hair tie.”
So about this dog. I got it into my head that I wanted one, and once the idea took hold it was all I could think about. My boyfriend and I searched for months for the perfect poof. And then one day he sent me a Craigslist ad, of all things. Until this point, I’d had good luck with Craigslist. I’d found an apartment, a table, and zero psycho killers. The lucky streak continued, as the ad contained a picture of three puppies.
And that’s how, a few days later, we found ourselves on a drive to a stranger’s house three hours away in search of a dog.
From the minute she climbed in my lap, I knew we were taking her home. She was perfect, and I was already in love. I couldn’t shove money at them fast enough.
Within a few minutes of driving home with my newly acquired puppy sleeping in my lap, I wanted to turn around and bring her back.
It hit me all of a sudden that I was now responsible for this little life. How was that possible? I assume that’s how new parents feel on the way home from the hospital, only parents have nine months to come to grips with the idea, and I had had three days.
Yes, I’m comparing getting a dog to having a baby. Don’t be weird about it.
That first night, she whined. She whined and cried all night. I was a horrible person. She didn’t love me. She didn’t even want to be here. And from there the fears started to build up.
I was afraid of accidentally stepping on her and breaking her foot or her tail or her back. I was afraid I would feed her too much, or too little. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to potty train her and she’d always pee upstairs on the carpet. I was afraid that I’d take her to the vet, and be told what an awful job I was doing and should never be allowed a dog again.
And then, as I started to get used to caring for her, new fears cropped up. I was afraid of leaving her alone when I went to work, because she’d somehow end up dead by the time I came home (anxiety is morbid sometimes). I was afraid that I wasn’t socializing her enough, or maybe too much. I was afraid of feeling jealous when it came to Panda and other people. At worst, I feared I’d become resentful if she didn’t like me as much as other people.
Except, that’s not how it went. None of my fears came to pass. She eats fine. She’s perfectly potty trained. If the vet thinks bad things about me, she’s never said so. And the joy my pup exudes upon meeting new people, or seeing family after a long time, makes me happy, too. The amount of happiness one wriggly little body can contain is surprisingly infectious. The next time an apocalypse breaks out, hair ties will be a distant second to making sure I have my dog, zombies be damned.
And I’ve never come home to find her dead. Or undead. So that’s good.
People tell me I spoil her. Which is probably true, but I feel like I’m the spoiled one. I’m spoiled with her dragging toys over to me when she wants to play. I’m spoiled with her joy every time I pull out her leash and she knows we’re going on another adventure together. I’m spoiled with her sitting under the table while I write, tail tickling against my feet. I’m spoiled with her coming to check on me when I’m crying and licking up the tears. I’m spoiled with her running to me when she’s scared or hurt and demanding to sit in my lap like it’s the last safe place on Earth. I’m spoiled with the feeling of her curling into my hipbone while I sleep, in constant contact through the night. I’m spoiled with her unconditional love.
I’m not sure what I did to deserve this face, but spoiling it is the least I can do.
(In a shameless plug, you can follow my pup on Instagram @panda.pom. Seeing her little face every day brings me joy. Maybe it’ll do something for you, too.)