Do you remember who you were when you first adopted your dog? Were you any different now than you are today? If you’re like most dog owners I know, the answer is absolutely. Dogs teach us so much, and we can’t help but be changed by their love and their goodness. When I adopted my dogs not long ago, I was a dog walker, and one of my clients was a woman suffering from brain cancer. She had two pups; a 10-year-old Yorkie and a 15-year-old blind Dachshund. As the weeks went by, her health deteriorated, and she was afraid of what might happen to her pups.
I promised her I would find a home where her dogs would be together. I tried, but no one wanted both of the dogs, and their owner insisted that they must be together. There were offers to take the Yorkie, but none who wanted an old, blind Dachshund to tag along. So my family and I decided to adopt these two pups. Since that time, Macki, the Yorkie, and Skippy, the Dachshund, brought me so much joy and changed who I am as a person. Here’s how adopting my dogs made me better than I was before.
1. I’ve Learned To Let Go
Every day I went to visit the woman with brain cancer and walk her dogs, I was watching her die. Her hair fell out. She couldn’t remember basic words. She could barely walk, and she was fading. The only thing that brought her joy was caring for those dogs. It was only after I told her that I would take them that her health plummeted quickly. Within two weeks, she was bedridden and barely able to speak. I realized then that she had been holding on for her dogs, worried that they would have nowhere to go.
When she knew her time was at an end, she selflessly gave her dogs to my family, only thinking of them, knowing that the one part of her life that had a sliver of happiness would be gone. Within days, she passed away. She let go of everything–her pain, her suffering, and even her joy, all for her dogs’ well-being. There’s a cliche that says, “If you love something, let it go.” In adopting Macki and Skippy, I learned that sometimes if you love something, you need to let everything that you have and everything that you are go, too.
2. I’m Better At Planning Ahead
Macki and Skippy had some unusual needs. Macki was young and in good health, but he had separation anxiety and was standoffish around other dogs and strangers. Skippy was, of course, blind and old. He had a hard time finding his way around places, and eventually he started to slow down as his bones and joints started to ache more. He would have accidents in the house regularly.
All of these needs meant my family and I needed to plan ahead for everything. The dogs couldn’t be left alone for long stretches of time, which meant we needed to get pet sitters or friends and relatives booked well in advance. We needed to plan trips with hotels that allowed dogs, bring cleaning supplies, keep medication and feeding schedules, and so on. At first, these things were hard, and they still are, but now I’ve got this. It extends beyond caring for dogs, too. I can plan things out and stick to a schedule better. When you start to put others first, you get good at planning your life around obstacles.
3. I’m Prepared To Handle Other People’s Needs
Caring for Skippy, an old boy with medical needs, has certainly made me less squeamish around bodily fluids, and that does make the task of caring for humans in need less daunting. At this point, I’m used to cleaning up and rushing to help, tossing aside any fears or disgust. I used to think that there was no way I could take care of a relative who got sick, but now it seems easier, bearable, like it was never a big deal in the first place. I wouldn’t feel that way without Skippy in my life.
4. I Laugh More
Dogs are funny. Most dog owners I know would tell you that their dogs make them laugh at least once a day. The same can be said of Macki and Skippy. Macki is such a goofy little guy with a big Napoleon Complex. He barely needs to do anything to make me laugh. Sometimes his tongue just hangs out a little bit and it will make me giggle. His tough guy antics easily put a smile on my face.
Despite being blind, Skippy was always a typical Dachshund in that he’d constantly find tight places to get into and get stuck. Some of the places he ended up would baffle me, and after my initial freak out, I’d have a laugh, give him a kiss, and put him safely back in his bed. Skippy and Macki have filled my life with joy, and when you’re joyful, you laugh more.
5. I’m Always Learning More About Compassion
You can’t help but learn to be compassionate from dogs. Skippy and Macki have given me so much more love and affection than I could ever repay them for. They love unconditionally, and I feel inspired to do the same. It’s hard to extend that kind of love to other people, but my dogs have become my role models. Loving them more than I love myself teaches me to be humble, and that’s the foundation for compassion.
6. I Do Research
Caring for Skippy and Macki has forced me to do a lot of research into what their medications are, how to train them, how to provide care for them, what to feed them, and so on. Being concerned for their health made me more aware, and that continued on into my own life. Now, I’m more likely to look up information about the foods I eat and the products I use. I’m more informed, and I want to educate myself to make better decisions. That started with the desire to be a better pet parent.
7. I Know I’ll Live Through Loss
We knew it was time to put Skippy down when he couldn’t stand on his own for long anymore. He often seemed confused and lost, and he would wake up in the middle of the night crying. He couldn’t stop himself from having accidents, and his quality of life wasn’t what it should have been.
Many of you don’t need me to tell you about the heartbreak of losing a dog. It’s a pain that’s almost unreal, like your heart is being pulled out. It’s really impossible to describe. And even though it hurt so badly, here I am, writing this article. I’ve lived through it. I can still look at Macki and love him, knowing full well that one day I will probably have to say goodbye to him, too. I will never forget Skippy or stop loving him. The pain won’t go away, but I’ll get better at living with it every day, and I’ll survive. I’ll be okay. I’ll still have good days, and I’ll still love. Skippy, Macki, and all the other dogs I’ve had throughout my life are forever a part of me. They have changed me and will continue to change me for the better, and I’m so grateful to them for that. I can only repay them by being the best person I can be and sharing my love with dogs and people until, one day, I have to let them go.
What have you learned from adopting dogs? Let us know in the comments below!