One year ago today I lost every shred of common sense I had, and agreed with the girlfriend that we should get a dog. Perhaps I just didn’t want to be the stick-in-the-mud anymore, or perhaps I’ve always wanted a dog and just decided to throw caution to the wind; either way we ended up saving a life that day, and forever impacting the course of our lives in the process.
To be clear, I have always been a dog person. My first dog was a black terrier of some sort, maybe a Scottie, that we got when I was in kindergarten. Much to my parent’s chagrin, I named the dog “Pups” and we were fast friends. As I grew up we had other dogs; a shar-pei/pit-bull mix and later a pound puppy that I was convinced was a grey hound/dingo mix.
These dogs were incredibly loyal and terrific companions for my siblings and I, and each one of them came from a family friend or from the pound.
When I moved out of my parent’s house, I adopted what I was told was a chow-mix from the pound. To my grateful surprise, he turned out to be a German Shepard/ Rhodesian Ridgeback mix; an incredibly bright and dedicated dog who was probably the best thing from that time in my life.
Fast forward to 2012 and I’ve been living in Downtown Phoenix dog-free for ~7 years. Four of those years I lived in a ground-floor apartment with a view of Portland Park and saw dozens & dozens of neighbors walk by day and night with their dogs. I’d come home after work and there would be a congregation of dog-owners hanging out in the park, humans and canines each socializing in this common need.
Talk about an impetus for propinquity, how many meetings and talks have I been to where the topic of how to increase pedestrian traffic and urban density comes up, and here puppies were the answer all along!
Truthfully, to live in the Roosevelt, three things are required:
- a bike
- a love of coffee
- a dog
So, despite my logical arguments that my lifestyle didn’t really support the level of responsibility that dog ownership requires, the allure of that special kind of unconditional love and companionship was too much, and with that, we were off on a tour of local shelters to find a new member of our family.
The Quest for The Pup
The first place we went to was the Humane Society. As a no-kill shelter, I have always held the Humane Society in high esteem. With two sizable campuses in Phoenix, this organization is doing great work to help man’s best friend. Unfortunately, when we visited, both locations were packed with 95% pitbulls and chihuahuas; neither of which matched our idea of the kind of dog we wanted. (I also had to be reminded to not read the bios attached to the cage, as I had an aptitude to become quickly sympathetic to the downtrodden and abandoned dogs.)
After that, the next place to turn was the Maricopa County Animal Care Center, otherwise known as “the pound”. MCACC is the second largest animal shelter in the country, taking in over 200 pets everyday. Sadly, they are not a no-kill shelter and, per their 2010 statistics, nearly half of the animals they accept have to be euthanized. Knowing this before we went in, and having adopted my previous dog from there, I forewarned my girlfriend that this was a pretty sad place and that setting foot in there would skyrocket my urge to take home a dog.
To my surprise, the quality of environment had drastically improved from the facility I visited in 2001, and it now looked more like the Humane Society campus and much less like the canine concentration camp I’d been to before. Regardless, we understood the reality that every dog in this place was here before they were abandoned or surrendered and each of them needed a loving “forever home” to accept them.
Luckily, this time, amidst all the pitbulls and chihuahuas, we saw one bin full of puppies, and asked the volunteer to let us check out one that was particularly tiny with wiry fur and a big head. Maybe it was the awkward way he walked and reluctantly explored the small cement cell we were sat in, maybe it was the look in his eyes when I picked up his frail body and checked him out, maybe it was just how tightly he clung to us immediately, either way, it only took me a couple minutes sitting on the floor with him for me to declare that I was “100 percent” in favor of rescuing this dog and bringing him into our lives.
Rescuing a dog; rewarding ourselves
In the 365 days since we rescued our dog, our lives certainly have changed quite a bit. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t a few additional stresses.
- Coming home from work at lunch to let the puppy out when he was too young to hold it the entire day,
- Waking up far earlier than I was used to because the dog gets up with the sun,
- And, of course, the exercise in zen/patience that is house-training a puppy
If my biggest hardship of the day is having to come home and play with a puppy during my lunch break, I really need to take a look at myself. In truth, these adjustments seem small in hindsight, especially when weighed against the balance of the benefits he has brought into our lives.
- A constant companion,
- Endless source of entertainment,
- An ongoing project with immediately feedback (you don’t know conversion-testing until you’ve tried training a dog to give you a high-five!)
- Someone who is always eager to welcome you home, even if you just left 2 minutes ago to take out the trash,
- An expert in zombie detection,
- That kind of unconditional love that you can’t find anywhere else
As implied above, dog-ownership has also brought me closer to my community. The only neighbors I know are all dog-owners; before that, I had no clue who any of the hundreds of people in my building were. I’ve enjoyed the parks in my city before, but whereas I would visit annually before, it has turned into weekly or semi-weekly trips now. Add to this the countless laps around the block and occasional expeditions through the surrounding neighborhood, and it’s plain to see that the puppy brought me out to experience the city I love.
While I know dog ownership is not a good fit for everyone, I whole-heartedly recommend adopting a rescue dog to anyone who is interested.
After all, rescuing a dog was one of the best decisions Ned Stark ever made. You should try it.