Growing Up With Dogs

Dogs have a lot to teach us, and unfortunately, they don’t have many years to do it.  I grew up in a household that had two dogs from the moment I was brought home from the hospital.  While, yes, it is extra work and concern for the parents at first, the payoff of having kids grow up with dogs is totally worth it.  I will forever be grateful towards my parents for allowing my siblings and I to grow up surrounded by dogs and I plan to have my kids grow up with them as well.

Dogs teach compassion.  This is something that our world needs a lot more of.  Kids with dogs learn from a very young age that animals need to be treated with respect and kindness.  This behavior then transfers over to people.  I am not saying that kids without dogs are abusive and mean to animals by any means.  Compassion is also something that comes from good parenting, but having a dog teaches that compassion isn’t just for people, its also for animals.  Animals have feelings too, and many people forget this, hence the massive amounts of dogs that are in shelters.  Kids that grow up around dogs learn the meaning of “gentle” pretty quickly.  They also learn from a young age that tails and ears aren’t meant to be pulled on.

Dogs are a source of comfort, confidence, and reassurance.  When I was young, I was a horrible sleeper.  It got to the point that I tried therapy to figure out why I couldn’t sleep.  I was always afraid of things being in my closet, I would hear noises, and was fearful of many other things that were just a figment of my imagination.  We had a yellow lab, Maggie, who would sleep at the top of the stairs every night when my siblings and I went to bed.  I would sneak out of my room and go lay with Maggie because she made me feel safe.  I knew that Maggie would protect me and she provided a sense of comfort that no one else did.  I would lay right next to her and instantly fall asleep because, next to her, I knew nothing was going to happen to me.  While, yes, parents can provide this comfort too, I think many kids respond to dogs better because the dog isn’t telling them that there is nothing under the bed or in the closet.  They just are there and show by example that everything is okay without trying to educate you about the irrationality of your fearful thoughts.  If there were anything to worry about, Maggie would alert me.  In the many years she was there, not once was there anything for me to be afraid of.

Dogs teach responsibility.  From the moment we could, my siblings and I were out scooping poop, picking up toys, feeding the dogs and vacuuming up their hair.  These were things that had to be done, and we learned that if the dogs aren’t fed they aren’t happy and if the backyard is covered in poop our parents aren’t happy.  Obviously, kids in families without dogs learn responsibility too, but this type of responsibility is a bit different in the sense that if you skip a certain chore, such as feeding the dogs, the dogs go hungry and that isn’t fair to them.  If you skip doing the dishes, no one is hurt or left unfed.

Kids with dogs also learn the importance of exercise.  If your dog needs to get out and run around a couple times a day, so do you.  Obesity is a huge problem in America, especially in kids.  Having a dog requires parents and kids to get outside and walk them which can only do good for both the dogs and the kids.  Having a dog to run around outside and explore with is something that a lot of kids can benefit from, my siblings and I sure did.

Kids need to learn these characteristics no matter what.  If you don’t have a dog, it doesn’t mean that your kids aren’t going to learn all of these things.  I am a firm believer that dogs can teach us all of these things too, just in a different way.  Many kids hate being told what to do and a great thing about dogs is that they can’t tell you what to do.  They don’t nag you to do your chores or scold you if you don’t.  Kids who grow up with them just learn naturally how to do many of these things I discussed above.  Some of my best childhood memories are with my dogs, and I can’t wait for my kids to have the same experiences that I did.

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Balancing College Life and Dog-Mom Life

Bouncing off of my last post about the current trend of college kids getting dogs, I wanted to elaborate a bit more on this topic.  While I still stand by my point that getting a dog should not be a trend, I do not want to make it seem like getting a dog in college is wrong.  Clearly, it’s manageable, as I and some of my friends are balancing college and owning dogs just fine.  However, it is not easy and many kids my age just aren’t ready for that commitment and that’s where this whole trend thing is bad.  Many people fail to realize how much work a dog is and how much balance is required to take on this responsibility in college.

Every morning Luna wakes me up at about 5:30-6:00 am for her breakfast and to go outside.  While it is painfully early, Luna will sit directly on my chest and paw my face until I get out from under my warm covers.  Once she is fed, she curls back up next to me until my alarm goes off at 7:30 for work.  Let me add here, it is nearly impossible to have a dog with no source of stable income.  You might think you have enough saved up, but think again.  Dogs are expensive and you’ll probably end up buying more things for your dog than you do for yourself.  So, I go to work, come back and take Luna for a 2-mile run.  By the end of our run, Luna is practically dragging me down the street to go longer while I’ve got my hands on my knees trying to catch my breath.  I seriously don’t think she ever gets tired.  However, after our run, she is perfectly content lounging in my room while I go to class for a few hours.  Before I used to take her on runs, I’d come home to find various items, like a wire bra and baseball cap, ripped to shreds with the majority of it in Luna’s stomach that I later had to get out (but that’s another story).

Once I return home, Luna is re-charged and ready to run another marathon.  We head to the dog park where she fetches so hard that I have to make her sit and take a breath because I literally worry that she’s going to collapse.  Keep in mind, the rescue I got Luna from described her as, “calm and laid back” …but boy was I in for a surprise.  Luckily, when Luna has her exercise done for the day, she becomes that calm and laid back dog she was known as in her previous foster home.

Once we are back from the park, I do homework, nap, and cook dinner.  Most of my motivation to get Luna tired is so that she lets me nap.  I work at 1:30 am three nights a week, so a nap is a must for me and it will not happen if Luna hasn’t had her exercise.  After Luna has her dinner, we go back out for a 15-minute walk and then she is in for the night.  The next morning, she is ready to do it all over again.

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade Luna for the world, but many rescue dogs don’t fully become themselves until after about 6 months of being in their new home.  Unfortunately, this is why many choose not to rescue.  It is a lot of work and you really don’t always know what you are going to get.  However, that is what I love about rescuing.  You slowly get to see your dog’s personality come out and it is a really cool thing to watch.  However, there is the potential for negative behaviors to shine through as well once they are comfortable with you.  For Luna, I realized her intense fear of anything on wheels (bikes, roller-blades, skateboards, etc.) when we moved into our apartment after a summer in my quiet, rural hometown.  In a college town, bikes and skateboards are definitely not easy to avoid but she has gotten much better.  She also gets very overwhelmed in large crowds with loud noises.  If my roommates and I want to have more than a few close friends over in our apartment I have to take Luna home to my parent’s house because I know she will be more comfortable there.  I tried to get Luna used to lots of people in our place because it is good for her to meet new people and realize that people are good, but exposing my dog to an environment where college kids are drinking was a mistake.  I noticed people trying to give her beer, food, and other things she simply should not have.  She ended up licking someone’s beer can and cutting her tongue open.  I then realized that no dogs should ever be exposed to that type of environment, and many college kids fail to realize that.  Your dog is not something to show off in these situations.  There is a time and a place for everything, and a college party is not the place to flaunt your dog around.

While this all may seem like a lot of work, I cannot express how worth it this life is.  I still go out with my friends on the weekends and enjoy my college life because it is coming to an end much quicker than I realized.  But, during the week when I am stressed with finals, papers, interviews, job searching or whatever else life throws at me, having Luna there everytime I open the door is what helps me forget about all of the stress that come with being a college kid.  Everyone has their coping mechanisms, and luckily, mine happens to be one that loves me and acts like she hasn’t seen me in a year after 10 minutes of me being gone. I am so glad that I made the decision to get Luna because she has taught me so many things that I don’t think I would have otherwise learned in college.  She has taught me that no matter how tough of a day you might be having, there is always a reason to smile.

 

Why Owning a Dog Shouldn’t be a Trend

Getting a puppy seems to be trending among young adults, especially college students.  While it’s great that these dogs are going into loving homes, what’s not so great is that many of these young adults who are getting these dogs have no idea what they are getting themselves into.  Having a dog is like having a child, they depend on you for everything.  Sure, getting a puppy may seem exciting because they’re “just so cute” and would be “so fun to play with”, but what about getting up four to five times per night to let the puppy out?  Or, listening to the puppy cry while you’re crate training it and just want to sleep.  Think puppies are potty trained in a few days?  Wrong.  Owing a dog is NOT easy, and quite honestly, not for everyone.

You might ask, “Who are you to talk?”  While yes, I’m a college student, I thought about my decision to adopt a dog months before I got her.  I calculated costs to make sure that I could afford it, while still paying my bills.  I did hours of research to determine if a college environment is the right place for a dog, and not every place is.  My quiet apartment is fine, but if you live in a place that has loud parties every weekend with drunk college kids coming in and out all night long, is not a safe or happy place for a dog at all.  I have seen so many dogs up for adoption with the description saying, “returned because could not be cared for.”  After asking further questions, it’s almost always because it was a young adult or college kid that couldn’t afford it or didn’t want to do the work anymore.  Getting a dog is not something that is a spur of the moment decision.  You have to make sure that you can afford the vet bills, supplies, food, etc. to ensure that your dog has the best life possible.  I had to get a job that paid well enough so that I could still support myself and my dog. Honestly, my dog eats better food than I do, but that’s just my inner dog-crazy self.  College kids are at a time in their life where it’s their last years to have fun and have few responsibilities before the real world sets in.  While you can still have fun and participate in normal college activities with a dog, you definitely have to be willing to give some things up.

Dogs need to be let out and exercised at least four to five times a day.  This does not mean a walk outside to go potty and walk right back inside.  If a dog is not allowed to release their energy in a positive way such as playing fetch or going for a jog, they are going to release their energy in negative ways such as chewing your furniture or other things that they aren’t supposed to.  As a college kid, you have to be willing to come home in-between classes and work to let your pup out.  Don’t have time?  You better be able to afford a doggy day care or a dog walker because a dog should not be locked up all day long.  You may have to give up some socializing to make sure you can take your dog to the park or go play fetch.  You might have to stay up later to study for that exam because you had to take your dog to the vet.  You have to be willing to come home from the bars or a party earlier so your dog isn’t alone all night.  You may have to get up at 6 a.m. to feed your dog even though you’re hungover and don’t want to get out of bed.  You might not be able to afford that cup of Starbucks every morning because you have to pay for your dog’s expenses now.  These are sacrifices I was willing to make, and that everyone college kid needs to make in order to take care of a dog.

Luna has had a tremendously positive impact on my life.  She has taught me so much responsibility that I would have otherwise never learned in college.  But, I was willing and ready to change my habits for her, and unfortunately, many kids are not willing to do the same.  So, please, don’t get a dog because you want to show it off to all your friends and play with it when its being cute.  Get a dog because you want to make a positive impact on their life and provide them with the best possible home.  And, as always, adopt don’t shop.

 

 

Unconditional Love

Up until January 12, 2017, I had never lost a loved one.  I grew up with three grandparents, one grandpa passing away shortly after I was born, so I was pretty lucky to grow up with three out of four grandparents.  Sure, I had been to funerals for distant relatives I had met once or twice or my friend’s grandparents, and I grieved for them because they were hurting and I hate seeing people hurt.  I, however, had no idea what that pain felt like until one of my best friends passed away in a tragic accident while she was on a family vacation in Mexico.

Abbey Connor, my sweetest, sassiest, most beautiful friend and fellow UW-Whitewater student, taken away far too soon.  Getting the news that she was gone rocked me to the core.  I had just celebrated New Year’s Eve with her a few short weeks ago, and now I was never going to see her again.  How is that possible?  Why would this happen to her?  I had absolutely no idea how to handle this.  Going from losing no one to losing one of my best friends so suddenly was something I was not prepared to deal with, but is anyone?  I cried and cried and cried and listened to people tell me it was going to be okay, but those words didn’t mean anything.  Of course, I appreciated the support of my friends and family, but nothing made the pain in my chest go away when I thought of Abbey.  I hurt so much for her family, if I felt this horrible, I couldn’t imagine how her family felt.  The only thing that I found comfort in was the one thing that couldn’t tell me they were sorry and that it was going to be okay, Luna.

There is no doubt in my mind that Luna knew I was hurting.  I am convinced that dogs have a 6th sense and are much more aware of our emotions than we give them credit.  Luna would just lay with me while I cried and her presence alone eased that pain.  My crazy and energetic dog would just sit and let me pet her for as long as I needed to.

Not even a month later, February 11th, our family dog, Will, passed away after a long battle with cancer.   For fellow dog lovers, you know how hard it is to let your furry companions go.  We had Will since he was a puppy, so he grew up with my siblings and me.  He was my four-legged brother and letting him go ripped my healing heart wide open again.  This time, my whole family was hurting, including Will’s sister, Grace.  Will and Grace had never spent a day apart; they slept in their dog crate together, chased chipmunks together, protected my family together, and she just couldn’t understand where he went.  We couldn’t explain to her that he wasn’t coming back and that made the pain that much worse.  The one thing that brought a smile to everyone’s face in the days, weeks, and months to come was Luna.  She would grab her squeaker toy and run up to everyone shaking and squeaking it just begging for someone to play tug with her. She would light up the room and bring a smile, even if only for a second, to our faces. She was helping us cope, and she didn’t realize it.

Two months later, April 13th, my grandma passed away.  I couldn’t believe that I had to deal with another death.  I was still grieving Abbey and Will’s passing, and now I had another death to try and cope with.  My grandma lived in Florida for half of the year, so while we weren’t the closest, she was my grandma, my dad’s mother, and of course, I loved her.  I hurt for my dad as he had to say goodbye to his mom. I hurt for all of my cousins, aunts, and uncles. I hurt for my mom and my siblings and I.  We had never lost a grandparent, and now we had to deal with this while still grieving Will’s passing, I still grieving Abbey’s.  It was such an overwhelming and stressful time, and once again the one thing that got me through each day was Luna.  No matter how hard of a day it was, each night when I crawled into bed, Luna would lay right next to me, her head on my chest and just be there.  I cannot put into words what that feeling is like.

John Grogan, author of Marley and Me, (if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, add it to your list) wrote one of my favorite quotes.  He said, “A dog doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull.  Give him your heart, and he will give you his.”  This quote is undeniably accurate and I saw this proof in the months to come after I lost all of these loved ones.  Luna didn’t care if I didn’t have time to take her for a long walk, or I didn’t want to get out of bed, or I didn’t have the energy to play fetch with her that day, she was there for me and comforted me every moment.  She knew I loved her, and that was enough.  The most comforting part of all of this is that Luna didn’t even know she was doing it.  If more people loved each other like dogs love their humans, this world would be a much better place.

 

 

 

 

Why Rescue?​

While every dog deserves a great home, I have become so passionate about the importance of adopting dogs from rescues and shelters vs purchasing them from breeders or pet stores.  I am, of course, a little biased with my rescue dog and my families, but we have also gotten dogs from breeders, so I know that there are benefits to both!  I am not trying to bash people who buy from breeders; I am just stating why I believe people should rescue.

There is nothing wrong with buying from breeders, in fact, I think that there are situations where it is necessary to do so.  Service dogs, therapy dogs, military dogs, and police dogs have to be bred to ensure that they have all of the genetic traits they need to do their job.  However, more and more police forces are starting to train shelter animals to do some of their tasks, which shows just how much potential these dogs have!  There are also people who show their dogs, which, in that case, only purebred dogs are accepted.  I can understand why these people buy from their breeders, as long as they are reputable and take good care of their dogs.  But, there are much more people who should consider rescuing before going to a breeder or pet store.

First, when you rescue a dog they come with all of their shots, are spayed or neutered, and often microchipped too.  You pay an adoption fee of anywhere between $200-$500 and are given a healthy dog.  Those who buy from breeders can pay close to a thousand dollars, often more, and then have to pay for all of the vet bills too.  So for those who don’t like to spend much money, rescuing is the way to go.  Now, I am not saying that rescue dogs are perfect, in fact, a lot of them are far from it.  Most come from an unknown background of neglect, abuse, and fear.  I have had Luna for over a year, and she still gets very afraid sudden movements, loud noises, and many other things.  Rescue dogs require more patience and time than bred dogs because they need to be shown that the world really isn’t that scary.  But, that’s what I love about rescuing.  You take a dog that has spent its life in a shelter or as a stray and get to show them what a life of love is.  It is the most rewarding experience I have ever had.

Another thing to realize is that many dogs are euthanized if they aren’t adopted. According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters every year.  Of those that enter, only about 1.6 million dogs make it out.  So, roughly 56% of dogs are euthanized each year.  I understand that these facts are hard to believe, but there is just such an overwhelming amount of great animals that need so many homes, but people are afraid to buy a “mutt” or “shelter dog” because of the idea that you don’t know what you’re getting.  I understand people’s hesitations, but dogs aren’t even allowed to be put up for adoption until it is determined that they are safe for a home.  My family has had five shelter dogs, and every single one of them has been a fantastic animal and part of our family.  To think that they could have been killed if they weren’t adopted is so saddening.

My goal is that this makes people consider rescuing their next animal.  They are wonderful dogs that just need a little extra love and attention.  Its almost as if these dogs know that they have been given a second chance because they give so much love and affection.  Other rescue owners know exactly what I’m talking about, and I encourage everyone to rescue so they can see what all this love and affection is all about!  You won’t regret it.

 

Paisley - Paws n' Time Canine Rescue
Photo of Paisley by Rob Swatski at Paws n’ Time Canine Rescue

 

How It All Started

Before I start talking about all of the things I have learned from having a dog, I should probably tell the story of how this crazy journey started.

My sophomore year of college was probably one of the most difficult years I’ve had.  I was struggling with anxiety issues and I had just quit basketball, which was the hardest decision I’ve ever made.  I have been playing basketball from the time I could walk and the day that I decided I was done was a very difficult, yet relieving day.  It became unhealthy for me and caused me so much stress and anxiety that it was hurting me more than it was helping me, but that’s a different story.  Anyways, once I was done playing college basketball I felt relieved, but also empty.  All I had really ever known was basketball, so now I felt like I wasn’t doing anything with my life other than going to school and studying things that I didn’t care about.  I knew that something was missing.

I have always been an animal lover.  Growing up we had everything from cats, to dogs, to horses and even a pet bird.  Dogs were my favorite though (sorry cat lovers) and I thought, “why not see if there’s a dog that needs a home”.  So I went online and of course, I found, literally, thousands of dogs that needed homes.  After months of searching and convincing my parents that I could do this, I adopted Luna.

Luna came from a high-kill shelter in Missouri, meaning that if she wasn’t adopted in a certain time frame she was going to be put to sleep.  Lucky for me, Tiny Paws Small Dog Rescue in Milwaukee, Wi transported her and about 10 other dogs from the shelter up to Wisconsin.  Luna was about 15 pounds underweight and for a 40-pound dog that’s dangerously skinny.  When I would pet her I could feel every single bone on her body.  She was skinny, shy, and had patches of fur missing, yet the trust this animal gave me right from the start was amazing.  This animal had gone through only God knows what, and trusted me immediately.  It was an eye-opening thing to watch.

Now, I’m not going to lie and say that it was all butterflies and rainbows when I adopted Luna.  The first few days I was panicked and thought, “what on earth did I get myself into”.  But I knew that I had made a commitment to this dog and I couldn’t give her away.  I have always hated change, in fact, it is one of the things that gives me pretty bad anxiety, and I knew that giving Luna back would be the easy way out.  Sure enough, in about a week, this dog became my best friend and it’s like we had a mutual understanding that we were in this together.

Since getting Luna I went from not knowing what I wanted to do with my life to declaring my major as entrepreneurship and knowing that one day I want to open my own pet supply store.  I want to share all of the knowledge that I have gained about dogs from having Luna with other pet and dog lovers.  I have found that big, franchise pet stores just don’t have the same knowledge that small, local pet stores do.  I am also not saying that I know everything there is to know about dogs because I still learn new things every single day.  But I want to share everything I have learned with dog owners and help them give their pet the best life possible. I also hope to learn new things from all the people that (hopefully) come in and out of my store every day.  In the posts to come, I will share everything I have learned about life, love, animals, and everything in between from my life with Luna.