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“Our dogs may only be there for part of our lives, but to them, we are their whole lives.” The first time I read this quote while drunkenly scrolling through Twitter, I audibly groaned in sadness and then immediately made plans to go back to my parents’ house to see my dog. There are a few arguments regarding pets. Dogs versus cats, adopting versus shopping, and so on. No matter what people’s opinions are or which breed is most popular, nothing can beat the connection you have with your own pet. And as amazing as pets are and for all the joy they bring to our lives, it’s simply cruel that they are with us for such a short period of time.
My dog and best buddy, Toby, came into my life ten years ago when I was a 16-year-old sophomore in high school. My mom, sister, and I decided to randomly stop by a PetsMart one day and while we looked at several pups a shelter had put up for adoption, none really stuck out to us. That’s when we laid eyes on Toby, a 20-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback with a beautiful soft coat of brown fur. Toby excitedly hurried out of his crate right up to my mom and as she kneeled down towards him, he slowly raised his hind legs and put his front paws on my mom’s shoulders and stared into her eyes. All three of us stared back into his expressive big brown eyes and immediately knew he was the one. We signed the papers and took him home to meet my dad, who in the past had already strongly voiced his opinion that he did not want a dog. His opinion only became stronger once Toby immediately shit in my parent’s bedroom upon entering the house.
But it didn’t matter, Toby was now part of our family.
For the rest of my time in high school, Toby was by my side. He slept in my bed every night and would ride in the car with me whenever possible. To this day, every time we ride in the car, he has to have his paw on my hand or arm. If I move my arm for any reason, he slaps it with his paw until I hold his paw again. It is the most adorable shit you will ever see. Whenever my parents would go out of town and I’d throw a party, he would run beside me as I raced to get the house cleaned up before my parents got back. He even was nice enough to help clean up by eating the leftovers of a Taco Bell Beefy 5-Layer Burrito. As high school came to an end and I packed up my childhood room to leave for college, he laid on the floor and stared at my bags with the most amount of sadness I had ever seen in his big brown eyes. I laid down next to him and not only wished that the dorms would allow dogs, but wondered how I was going to survive being separated from this amazing dog that had become such a huge part of my life. Turned out that parties, girls, and convincing myself to skip class kept me distracted enough, but I still constantly missed him.
Fortunately, my college was only about 40 minutes away from my hometown, so trips to see Toby were the perfect way to cure any homesickness or stress from plummeting grades, which were an obvious result of my habit to skip class. No matter what the issue was, I had no worries in the world when Toby and I would hop in my car, put the windows down, turn up Louie’s “What a Wonderful World” and drive the long way to Chik-Fil-A while his paw rested in my hand.
Now a few years removed from college, I’ve started noticing slight changes in Toby. Changes I knew would happen but didn’t want to accept. His gray hairs have become more prominent. He hops into my car a little bit slower or I have to help him. He’s a little calmer in general compared to the rowdy pup he used to be. Then other times, he’s just as rambunctious as he was when we first brought him home. He’ll try to wrestle me to the ground and make me chase him. He sprints to the door when he sees my car pull into the driveway. If I’m lying on the couch watching football and he’s not laying with me, then he’ll sprint down from upstairs, come up to my face and lick me, then run back upstairs as if just to quickly say, “Love you, buddy.” Still, after his recent 10th birthday, I can’t ignore the fact that my dog is simply getting older. Just the thought of it fills me with anxiety and sadness.
A few weeks ago, I moved back to my parents’ house to save money while I decide if I want to buy my own place in Atlanta or relocate to my company’s Los Angeles office. Obviously, this time with Toby has been amazing. This past Friday night was the first Friday I didn’t go out at all in quite some time, and I spent it perfectly happy just lying in bed watching movies with Toby. Of course, we also made one of our famous Chik-Fil-A trips. It also makes my decision that much tougher. Whenever I think I’m set on moving to Los Angeles, I’m engulfed by a wave of depression when I realize only have so much time left with him. What if I were to come home one weekend and then head back to Los Angeles, and it was the last time I’d ever see him? I realize this may be an extreme way of looking at things, and maybe I’m just looking for excuses to not move away after never being further than 40 minutes from home.
If you don’t have a dog or pet that you don’t have this type of connection with, then this may all seem ridiculous to you. That’s perfectly fine. I didn’t realize how strong a bond with a pet could be until Toby came hurrying out of his cage and into my life. Pets really do become a part of your family. The only picture I keep on my desk at work is a picture of me holding Toby like a baby on Christmas. It also just happens to be my most liked picture on Hinge, so that has to count for something. The fact is that no one understands the love you have for your pet better than you. While it’s not easy watching them grow older in such a short period of time, it really makes you cherish all the time that you do have with them. Even if it’s an annoying task like taking them out early in the morning, I find so much more joy in it now. So stop what you’re doing. Go sit with your pup. Take them for a walk. Go for a drive. Just enjoy as much of the precious time that you have with them as you can.
And if any of you have an amazing dog that is looking to become the future Mrs. Toby, hit us up. We’ll be at Chik-Fil-A. .