My first dog was already home upon my return from the hospital. A tiny black cocker spaniel named Shadow Box, he soon learned to sleep either under my crate or in it with me, and became my fast protector and best friend. He bit my father for trying to correct me with a slight tap on the bum in my preschool years and waited on the stoop for me to return from my first day of kindergarten. He taught me exuberance and the joy of naps, and when he slowly died of cancer at the age of fifteen, I taught him the joys of ice cream and soaking in a warm bath.
In my life, dogs have always been the teachers and great givers of love. There has been not one day of my life that I did not own at least one dog, and few where at least two weren’t involved. One thing they all had in common? They have all been rescues. I had Coal, the black lab from North Georgia who really only liked my dad (the man smelled divine, after all). Big Red, an auburn-tinted Golden Retriever I found and then was forced to return when her owner noticed me walking her around the neighborhood (my first whiff of heartbreak). Then was Arizona, the mixed-breed puppy who died of Parvo in my arms at age 17. Slate, the Great Dane mix who still thinks that he’s a teacup chihuahua. I had Molly, a low rider mix who bosses around all the JRTs my mom has since collected (current count: 3). My brother has a pit bull named Emma, who thinks the permanent stink of my German Shepherd Somewhere is God’s most perfect perfume. And then there’s my best friend Elissa’s two boxer babies, Sadie and Parker, who call me Auntie Lo (at least, that’s what Elissa tells me). And this is only a small smattering of the canines who have ruled my roost.
For better (and sometimes worse), dogs have always been my constant source of companionship. All of my dogs have slept next to me in bed, accompanied me on road trips and long walks and laid at my feet as I worked to meet tight deadlines. They have endured my collection of collars, acquired Yankee neurosis (yes, I’m one of those who asks her dog for advice) and tendency to never keep any sort of “normal” schedule. No dog of mine would ever crawl in bed before 2AM, wake me at 7AM to ask to go to the bathroom, or pass up a shot at a spoonful of peanut butter – a true sign that they belong to me! The best day of my short 17 year old existence was the day I opened my hard-fought acceptance letter to NYU. My dog Luke’s reaction to the news? He promptly laid down and audibly sighed. He did the same thing when I first brought home my idiotic freshman boyfriend.
So how have I given back to these creatures who have so shaped and informed my life throughout the years? I’ve spent countless hours and days at high-kill shelters in the south, an amazing dog boarding facility in rural Northern Georgia and, most recently, coordinating a Brooklyn-based rescue called Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue. Nevertheless, no amount of my “free time” and extra energy could truly pay back the difference that has been made in my life. Have you ever heard that dogs can cure depression? Well, it’s not an exact science, but how can you not feel a little bit happier to come home to a wagging tail? (Except for maybe when that wagging tail has been chewing the sofa… been there!) And have you ever heard that quote “The more people I meet, the more I like my dog“? For me, this couldn’t be more true.