Every girl needs a dog. It’s science, well, truthfully, I don’t know it if is science, but it should be. I am certain there is some type of study that shows endorphins being released when you see a cute animal.
Either way, it is true, EVERY girl needs a dog. I look back on my childhood (thanks to therapy) and the one constant thing I remember was the dogs. Now, I did not live in a house full of random animals. I remember each dog based on the stages of my life. I remember being a young little chubby toddler cuddling our family dog’s new puppies. I remember caring so deeply about animals. Some of my first actual memories involved our family dog. My family shared in my love of animals, and there was always a family dog in our home.
Having a dog taught me more than just responsibility, it taught me how to love. Sounds super cliche right? It is completely true, though. Yes, I learned about feeding, walking, bathing, and caring for another being. Which in my young brain was a great distraction from the scary world around me. Having a pet grounded me. I watched my mother’s illness take her in and out of the hospital often. I remember getting off the school bus daily and not knowing if my mother would be home, or if she would be in the hospital. While my anxious baby brain was worried about all the big grown-up things; the one thing I didn’t have to question was if our family dog “Missy” would be waiting at the door for me. She was every time. It was a constant reminder that I was loved and everything would be okay.
Dogs devote their entire lives to loving their owners. For us, they are a small part of our world. For them, we are their entire world. Having a dog taught me to love something other than myself. It helped me feel needed and important. Not only was it a comfort to see our dog standing at the door or sitting on the back of the couch looking out the window each day; she was also a great distraction and a great playmate.
So technically, the first family dog I remember didn’t like me. I was a busy toddler when she came around, which made our relationship a little rocky. She didn’t like me, but she loved me. While my mother was certainly her favorite, she still waited for me to get off the bus each afternoon. When a thunderstorm rolled around; she left the comfort of my mother’s lap and found me. Why me? I have no idea, however; she kept me feeling grounded. It wasn’t until I grew up, got married, and moved away from my parents that I understood the absence of not having a dog. Coming home to a quiet house without a four-legged companion was boring. My newlywed heart longed for a dog, but we had very little money and space. After almost a year of marriage, we finally adopted a puppy that was headed to a no-kill shelter in Northern Virginia. We made him the highlight of our entire world. He was our first baby. Charlie had a birthday party. He went on beach trips to the mountains and was the subject of many creative writing assignments. For three years, our entire free time revolved around loving our puppy, and we loved him well. Soon our family grew and our Charlie was right beside us through all the changes. He helped us welcome both of our beautiful daughters into the world. He was the best, most caring, smartest dog I had ever owned. He was my therapy. My daughters grew up around him. By six months of age, my youngest knew to look around the room for him in the mornings. He helped me greet and wake up our girls every morning for five faithful years. Charlie became my oldest daughter’s therapy. He was her constant. He grounded her. Just like my first family dog grounded me, Charlie helped our oldest find happiness in the silly things in life. He licked her face to make her laugh. He would also hide from her when she was having a toddler tantrum (sometimes I hid too). Charlie wore his expressions through his eyes and was more human than dog. When the doctors told us he wasn’t well, I stayed up that night crying. He sat beside me and licked my tears away. He didn’t know I was crying over him. Charlie just knew his human needed him.
This relationship is exactly why every girl needs a dog. When Charlie passed, it left a gaping hole in my heart. My daughter, only four, cried ugly tears and felt grief for the very first time. I didn’t know how to help her, because I also felt the deep pain of losing my best friend. My heart told me to never love another dog, it was too painful. My brain told me it was too risky to open up our home to another animal. But I saw the longing in my daughters’ eyes. I heard my then one-year-old call out for her dog and I knew every girl needs a dog. I’ve learned that if you love a dog long enough, you will lose them. It will hurt, but it teaches you that loving is worth the losing. It teaches you that feeling grief just means you once felt love, deep love. So yeah, every girl needs a dog to teach them responsibility and all that good stuff. BUT every girl needs a dog so they can learn to love.