Living in California, I have seen a whole new level of dog ownership. There are dogs everywhere you go, the grocery store, movie theaters, restaurants, and hardware stores. There are even people who walk their dogs in strollers! What is it about dogs that people just can’t live without?
I have loved dogs since I was a very young child. I had dogs throughout my childhood, and sometimes more than one dog at a time. For years as an adult, I wanted to get another dog but I wasn’t ready for the responsibility or to give up some of my extracurricular activities.
Two years ago, after some research, I decided it was time to bring a dog into my life. I reached out to some dog rescues and received a note about a dog named Deuce. He was so cute! I fell in love with him the moment I saw his picture; I wanted to meet him immediately. When he walked into my apartment he walked over to me and put his head on my leg. I knew I had to adopt him.
There are so many things Nico, I changed his rescue name, has taught me and ways he has improved my life.
1. He gets me out of the house
Nico is an energetic dog and needs a lot of exercise. Each morning we start our day with a walk and end of the day with another walk. On the weekends, when I would like to simply lay on the couch and watch Netflix, he gets me out and about, walking around the neighborhood to explore new areas. On weekends, we will head to Fiesta Island and walk around the off-leash section of the beach. It is such a peaceful place. If I didn’t have a dog, it is unlikely I would go there very often.
2. Meet new people
I am an introvert so it is not easy for me to talk to strangers unless I have a reason to talk to them. Having a cute dog, I know I am biased, provides an opening for people to talk to me and for me to talk to other dog owners. I have met so many people since I adopted Nico. He helps open doors to new relationships. There’s something about dogs that brings people’s defenses down.
3. To see the joy and simple things of life
Nico finds joy in the simplest things in life. He gets excited about running outside, running on the beach, and running through high glass. He trots down the beach when we go to Fiesta Island. Watching how much he enjoys simple things, encourages me to do the same. It’s hard not to be happy when you see a creature enjoying life!
4. Teach me how I love
Dogs love you unconditionally. This morning, I left the house for an hour to take a Pilates class. When I returned, it was as if I had been gone a week. He was so excited to see me. His unconditional love has taught me to have more compassion and love for others. Imagine if we showed a dog’s level of enthusiasm each time we greeted our loved ones.
5. How to compromise
Compromise is necessary for any relationship whether it is a friendship, romantic, or co-worker. When you don’t have a pet, you can come and go as you please. You can also take a trip at the drop of a hat. When you a dog, you have to think about life a little differently. When did he last go out? How long will I be gone? If I have a trip coming up, who will watch him? Having a dog is more responsibility but it has taught me how to compromise which has helped in other areas of my life. Instead of going to the gym 1 ½ I might be able to go for only 30 minutes after work. Then I’ll come home and walk Nico for a mile or two.
Nico not only makes my life better but I see how he brings joy to others. As we walk down the street or at the dog park, he brings smiles to adult and children’s faces. I take him on hikes and I feel he helps motivate others who are struggling to finish the hike. At a whopping 12 pounds, Nico can hike 6-8 miles. When people see how this little dog is trekking along, it helps them stay motivated to continue hiking.
If you are a dog owner, you probably already know the lessons I have shared above. For those of you who aren’t but are thinking about it, it is worth it. Dogs change lives! At a conference a few years ago, I met a Veteran who developed some issues from being in war. When he returned home, he was given a golden retriever (I think that was the breed) as a service dog. He too said having a dog changed his life. He said people wouldn’t talk or look at him before he got his dog but now people stop to pet his dog and talk to him. It has provided human interaction for him.