Leah Di Paola
July 12, 2015 6:15 am

Everyone likes to say they’re spontaneous. It’s a romantic notion; a charming and fun adjective to describe yourself with. I certainly like to think I’m spontaneous, but actually, I’m ridiculously calculated and detail-oriented, and major life decisions require extensive thought and planning. So it came as a shock that one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life was also the most impulsive.

In August of 2014, I adopted a dog. I had been wanting to ever since I moved out on my own, but the timespan in which I found her, met her, and took her home was, well… one day. I was at work on a very slow afternoon, and out of curiosity I started searching for adoptable dogs online. I saw a great deal of cute, sad-looking pups that I wanted to bring home, but when I saw her, something stirred in me. She had these ridiculous lop-sided ears that completely enraptured me, and according to her photos and the little video the shelter posted, she seemed like the perfect lazy companion. I called the shelter immediately and asked when I could meet her. They said anytime, so I told them I’d be there after work. The fact that I was so gung-ho to take an hour drive out of my way on a Friday night was already out-of-character for me, so I should have known my life was about to drastically change.

A few hours later I drove to the shelter to meet “Madeline,” and the second I walked up to the little pen she was in, her head popped up from where she was sitting with another dog, and she ran to meet me at the gate. When one of the staff brought her in to the private room so we could get to know each other, she came right over to me, then casually reached up and licked my face. That was it.

I asked how long it would take to adopt her, and the lady assisting me said I could take her home that night if I wanted. Well of course I wanted! I needed this dog in my life, and I might lose my nerve if I waited a day! So I filled out the paperwork, paid the fee, and suddenly I was the owner of a two-year old, crooked-eared dachshund mix. It was an incredible sensation; the combination of “what did I do?” and “OMG! A PUPPY!!!”running through my head. Everyone in the shelter stopped what they were doing to come say goodbye to her, and that alone proved how special and loved this dog was. I knew I had made the right choice.

My boyfriend at the time got quite the shock when I called him earlier to say I was going to look at a dog—and then a shock again when I called three hours later to say I was coming home with a dog. He warmed up to the idea quickly though. Together, we named her Pretzel. Everything was perfect. She turned out to be house-broken already, she slept on the bed with me, she became my immediate companion, and I never once doubted my decision.

Fast-forward to one month later, and my boyfriend and I were breaking up.  It was, without a doubt, the most painful breakup I have ever been through, and the only thing that got me through the first week, and then the second week and so on, was Pretzel. Every time I came home to a half-empty apartment, she was there, wagging her tail and jumping up and down with excitement. Every time I cried, she lay next to me and exposed her adorable little belly that I just had to rub. When I was feeling numb she’d lick my face to remind me I wasn’t alone. She helped me feel protected and safe in my lonely apartment at night, and she provided a warm, soft cuddle buddy to help me sleep. She was my therapy, and I credit her along with Amy Poehler and Ingrid Michaelson (and of course all my wonderful friends at work and in life) for getting me through that time. My life was in chaos for a solid five months, and knowing I could come home to Pretzel —and that she would greet me every day like we had been separated for years —kept me grounded and pushing on through many difficult days.

Two months after the breakup I moved back into my dad’s house and she handled the transition seamlessly. I was worried that she might have accidents on the carpet, or that my dad, who is not an animal person, would throw us out the minute she barked, but the opposite happened. She turned my dad into her second-biggest fan. Now whenever he comes home, she’s running to the door and barking in excitement to greet him. Basically every terrible scenario that could have happened turned itself into the best-case scenario, and I couldn’t be more grateful. She still makes me laugh every day, and I find myself making up the stupidest songs for her, and talking to her in voices I would never want any other human to hear. I’ve become the crazy dog lady, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Of course, there are things about dog ownership that require you to think them through. You need to do your homework, and realize that owning a dog is for life. It’s also expensive at times, and often inconvenient as a young person who works 12-hour days and occasionally wants to go out with friends after work. You have to find someone to take care of your dog when you can’t be home for an extended period of time, and you have to make time to spend playing with and walking your dog.

The funny thing is though; if I had had time to think all those points through, I probably wouldn’t have ever ended up looking for dogs, and I certainly wouldn’t have met Pretzel. I was too much of a structured neat-freak to consciously allow my life to be turned upside-down; regardless of how much I’d been wanting a dog. So for me, a spontaneous, daringly unplanned decision was the best choice I have ever made, because it forced me out of my safe little box of organization and premeditation, and allowed me to see the beauty in embracing the unknown. Adopting Pretzel proved to me that I can always take a leap and be brave, and the results may just turn out better than you expected. Taking that chance helped shape the way I approach life now, and in a month, I will be moving across the country to start a new life, away from all the family and friends I have ever known, because I  now know that I can do it. And you can bet Pretzel will be right by my side the entire time.

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[Photo via author]

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