I’m decidedly a dog person. I love most furry creatures but dogs are easily my favorite – say what you will, cat lovers, about what that potentially says about my personality. The debate of cats versus dogs will go on forever. I’ve learned that cats probably are more suited to city life and a lot less maintenance, but there’s something about the affection and attention of a dog that melts my heart.
Many of us as veterans can attest to the role that pets have played in our lives and in our healing. As I’ve lived and learned about myself the last few years, dogs have played an integral part in my growth and my pain. Much to my chagrin, not all of my actions towards some of my furry friends were pleasant for me or the dog. Much of the betrayal and anger that I was dealing with as a result of some of my experiences during my service ended up being projected onto the animals around me.
The first dog I brought into my life after I got back from my deployment was an abused kennel dog that I kept in the barracks with me. This went very much against the rules and I almost got in major trouble for it, but at the time it was worth the risk. I named him Foster and we bonded almost instantly. He had serious issues with men and I felt like we understood each other. I took him with me after I got off of active duty and went to Missouri but we started to have some trouble. He had serious separation anxiety, and had we not lived in the country, he would have driven any neighbors absolutely crazy. The deal breaker though was that I didn’t have a fenced in area for him and he needed lots of room to run. He chased cars and when he did, there was no getting him back and he almost was run over a couple times. I eventually convinced one of the guys I worked with to find him a place to live on a farm where he could run to his heart’s content.
After Foster found his new home, I decided to try a puppy and I got a miniature pinscher. That was a total disaster from the beginning. The little thing was so high strung and all I wanted was a dog that would chill out and be a lap dog. I stood in the kitchen so frustrated because I couldn’t get it to calm down as it tore circles around my kitchen. I left her in my garage while I went to work that first morning and when I came home, I opened the garage and she was off like a rocket. I looked for her for hours and called my boyfriend to help me find her but we never did. After that, I decided maybe the dog thing wasn’t such a good idea.
A couple weeks later, my boyfriend’s daughters and I stopped to check out some puppies on the side of the road. I made a spur-of-the-moment decision and bought myself a papillon puppy. Of course the girls were thrilled. My boyfriend wasn’t exactly excited as he’s not a dog person but tolerated my bringing her home. I knew nothing about papillons and their high energy levels. They also are ridiculously hard to potty train even though they are one of the top ten smartest breeds. I named her Roxy and we started a very tumultuous relationship. I was still in a very, very angry place and my anger transferred to this little puppy who, for the life of her, wouldn’t pee outside. My anger and aggression really traumatized her and after my outbursts, I would sit in front of her kennel, cry and try to coax her out as she shook in the back corner. This pattern continued off and on throughout her formative puppy months. As a result she is very sensitive to emotions and energy, both positive and negative and I had to learn to be very delicate with her after I finally managed to get my own feelings under control.
When Roxy was 4 months old, we stopped at a pet store in Springfield, Missouri after a trip to a mall. In the store was a chocolate brindle daschund. Daschunds have always been my favorite breed, and this little guy was the coolest! I spent way too much money on him and took him home. We named him Captain Morgan and he has the perfect personality to reflect his name. Roxy and Morgan became best friends and Morgan became a pivotal part of the relationship between Roxy and I. Morgan’s calm demeanor inserted itself into my relationship with Roxy and he became a little mediator between the two of us. With his help, I was able to find my center and react in a more positive way towards everyone. He also was a little snuggle button and was the perfect lap dog although both dogs always battled for who could have the most lap time.
A while later, I had to move back to South Carolina and the dogs stayed with the boyfriend and the girls which almost broke my heart. Ironically, the boyfriend (although we had kind of called things off at this point) got stationed in South Carolina the next year and we ended up back together for a short four months while I was unemployed. This time allowed me to be with the dogs again who are quite well adjusted and enjoy the warmer weather. It also allowed me to continue to mend my relationship with Roxy. At the end of the four months, she was definitely “my” dog.
When I moved to New York City, Roxy and Morgan again did not. I think I would never have been forgiven if I had tried to take them with me. Now they have a big back yard and room to run and play and two girls and a dad that love them. I get pictures and the occasional jibe about owing puppy support. I still miss them like crazy and wish I had them, but I can look back at the time I spent with them and acknowledge the role they played in my life. I’m a better person because of my dogs and I will forever refer to them as my dogs. They helped me heal and confront the issues that I was dealing with and they always loved me even when I wasn’t a nice person to be around.
Even though I’m better adjusted than I was, I still do better with a dog by my side. Someday in the future when my life is more conducive to dog ownership, I’ll bring another dog into my life. Life definitely is better with a furry friend whatever your preference may be. So find yours if you have one and give them a hug or a kiss or in the case of a cat, a scratch behind the ears, and thank them for loving you.