Unexpected life lessons I learned adopting a rescue pup

When my psychic told me at one of my bi-annual appointments that, “a terrier with masculine energy” would soon enter my life this summer, I nodded my head yes but internally shook my head hell no while reminding myself of my free will to never have my first dog be a terrier. I’d like to think I have more of a calm, labrador retriever vibe. Fast forward four months and I’m walking out of a shelter with this nine pound terrier puppy in my very arms, wondering: What did I just get myself into?!

Her shelter name was Kristie; I like to tell people that Kristie was her “Norma Jeane” identity. She has since blossomed into her, “Marilyn,” or Salty Dog. Despite the fun of choosing her name, bringing her home didn’t bring about those warm and fuzzy feelings I expected to have; I guess you could call it puppy-postpartum depression. My cousin even caught me referring to Salty as “it,” unintentionally. No more late night rendezvous, no more bringing my next-day work stuff with me to a mid-week party, no more impromptu road trips (not like those ever happened anyway, but whatever, I was still losing them!), and no more terrier-like life swerves of my own

Even with her incessant yapping during “The Bachelorette” (come on, Salty, I wanna hear Shawn B.!), sprinkles of separation anxiety, a bout with Giardia (gross), a bedroom that now smells like dog pee (also, gross), crying, panicking, and the constant anxiety of whether or not I’m doing it right, Salty has lifted me out of an unhappy life phase I didn’t want to be in anymore. Here is what this tiny rescue pup has taught me.

I’m not alone (and neither are you)

I quickly found out that Salty and I had one major thing in common- a fear of abandonment. Me, being blindsided by any relationship I’ve ever had and being disappointingly single for longer than I like to admit, and her, being taken from her birth mom and sent to a shelter without a clue. So, here we were, a couple of misfits doing our best to reassure one another that they weren’t alone. I reassured her when I came back; she reassured me with her interfering yaps—go figure! 

The best people you’ll ever meet are at the dog park

Since my family dogs (and arguably, my family) always struggled with socialization, getting Salty in the mix with someone her own size was a priority, even if it gave me anxiety. The first day we showed up, I was quickly invited to sit down by a lovely older woman, named Lois, “like Superman’s girlfriend,” she added. It wasn’t hard to remember her name in that context because she was practically Superwoman in every way. Her self-titled “therapy” group meets at the dog park every afternoon at 3pm. It occurred to me that just as Salty needed to meet new people, so did I…and I have! Dog people are the best people. #squad

It’s okay to settle down

Lately, it seems like any offer for a nighttime outing is met with, “Sorry, I think I’ll stay in; I don’t want to mess up Salty’s bedtime routine.” Honestly, being with my dog is better than any crowded bar or lackluster kickback. I used to be afraid to settle down; I thought I was gaining more from living unpredictably, but that was actually what was hurting me in the end. Sometimes, admitting lifestyle preferences to yourself is the hardest part. Salty makes me want to get a steady career, find her a pup-dad, and enjoy the “mundane” of every day. For example, a new simple pleasure of mine is dreaming up veggie combinations to infuse with her kibble! Just living my new truth over here.

You’re not always the expert on “you” 

Pin it on my perfectionism, but my first vision of pup mom life didn’t include a terrier. The thought occasionally crosses my mind of how much easier it would be with a different breed, a purebred, maybe. That’s what decided was best for me, but as much as we’re wrong about what’s good for other people, we can be utterly incorrect about what is constructive for ourselves. It’s a lesson (within a lesson!) in surrendering to life and the beautiful curveballs therein. Turns out, I needed a dog that reflected who I was; sometimes a terrier just needs another terrier. Thanks universe for knowing more about myself than I do!

We’ve all got issues, and that is OK

Rescue dogs are typically labeled as having issues, but so do people. Heck, some people might even consider my obsession with Salty to be an issue! Whether you’re like Salty and I with a fear of abandonment, or you battle depression and/or anxiety, we’ve all got our “stuff.” As I get to know Salty better with each passing week, it often occurs to me that she and I are more alike than we are different- a little ragged, quick to act, and in need of stability. Sometimes, we just need that mirror to reflect ourselves back to us in order to show a bit more compassion to others. Am I recommending dog adoption to cure your life problems, you ask? Absolutely! A pushy pup might just charge into your lap and change everything. 

[Image via author]

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