Growing up, we always had cats. I remember begging and pleading with my parents to get a dog. After years of incessant begging, they finally relented and we registered with the Seeing Eye to adopt one of their retired dogs. They received tens of thousands of dollars in training, were loyal and could live a happy, retired life. After waiting a year or so, we finally were able to adopt a four-year-old black lab named Rocky. He was forced into retirement due to cancer, and we had him for five years until his cancer returned.
I knew from then on, I was a dog person. Cats are cool, I guess, but it’s hard to really care for something that shits in a box, claws up your leather items and is active nocturnally and makes noises imitating a home invasion.
To me, there is no pet bond stronger than a person and their dog. All of my dogs (and animals for that matter) were rescued in some form of another. I low-key judge people who don’t at least look into the many overcrowded shelters or rescue organizations, as I’ve found that rescues make the best dogs and their lives literally depend on being adopted. In college, I brought home a 130-pound German shepherd named Sam that was dropped off at my then-girlfriend’s summer job.
He was supposed to be my dog until I went back to school and he became my dad’s. After my dad passed, Sam helped my mom through a lot, always waiting for my dad to get home until he eventually lost his mobility to hip dysplasia and took his trip down the rainbow bridge.
It’s funny how life works like that. Even after being neglected and abandoned, animals still trust and love humans. When me and the Mrs. started dating, she was out on a work assignment to the way-far-out country. Along the road was a large black dog, emaciated and covered in ticks, and a little Chihuahua that he was protecting. I guess some trailer trash neglected them and they had been running through the hollers until she found her. She stopped without a second thought to get them off the road — we love animals — they hopped in and she returned home. We adopted out the Chihuahua that she lovingly named Randy Jackson to her neighbor that recently lost her dog and kept our now-beloved Tank. Honestly, I have no idea how anyone can throw away an animal, let alone the best dog I’ve ever seen in my life. Randy Jackson has also enriched the neighbor’s life considerably since she lives alone, but she renamed him Fred – a bullshit run-of-the-mill name.
Tank never leaves our side. Even off the leash, he stays close and always comes back every so often to check in with us by putting his nose in our hand. He is basically a 75-pound lap dog and spoons with us during weekend naps. He doesn’t know it, but sometimes people judge him. We take him and his adopted sister Daisy (we got her from a rescue after a cop found her wandering the streets) to the farmers markets, hiking, basically anywhere we can.
Some people are scared of large black dogs that resemble pit bulls, so we try to educate people and have them as ambassadors. Tank will undoubtedly slurp children in the face and roll over for belly rubs. I’ve had a few times they’ve been discriminated against, but largely, most people love to pet them. Tank seems to know if someone is afraid of him, and he tries his best to make amends and calmly get close to them for some love. Usually, he wins everyone over, and he has even changed the minds of a few children who were once afraid of dogs.
We’ve been through a lot together. Ups and downs in relationships, loss of family members, parties and tailgates (Tank and Daisy love parties); you name it, and the dogs have always been there. Dogs, especially Tank, seem to have a pulse on human emotion. We are currently in the process of getting him therapy certified since he did so well when we visited the old folks home.
If you’re thinking about getting a dog, I highly recommend it. While I’d never refer to them as my children, I know that raising a well-rounded animal, regardless of the kind of animal, is important. I don’t think I really want kids, but I can tell you that having a rescue is quite rewarding. We’ve definitely had a lot of experiences raising Daisy from a puppy.
Tank is getting older. We’ll never know how his life began or what has happened to him — he’s got some scars and tooth damage from being abused at some point. He’s probably around eight now, and we’ve had him for three years. It’ll be a sad day and I hope it is far off, but one day, he too will cross the rainbow bridge. There’s a lot of quotes about dogs and how much joy they bring, about man’s best friend and how attuned they are to humans, but you will never fully understand them until you find your spirit animal like we did with Tank.
There’s a story about a six-year-old watching his beloved childhood pet on his last day. After battling cancer, the dog was put to rest. After pondering why dogs live such short lives, the boy responded. “People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life – like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” The six-year-old continued, “Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”
I love my dogs..
[Photo via Unsplash]