The best decision I have ever made, hands down, was adopting a dog. It is probably the best thing I have done with my life. That said, my (relatively short) time as a dog owner hasn't always been smooth sailing. Pistachio is the first dog I've ever owned as an adult, and while I was up to the task, I went into it with a healthy serving of naïveté.
My Puppy Taught Me I’m Capable Of Loving Anybody Despite Their Flaws
The first time my dog came to my apartment, she was brought by her foster family, which included a little girl of about 7-years-old. When it came time for them to leave, the little girl knelt down and hugged Pistachio (who at the time was called Sophie) and told her goodbye. Naturally, I started crying immediately. I knelt down and tearfully told the little girl "you can visit her any time you want!" She sort of inched away from me and said, with a great deal of patience, "we have a lot of dogs." This had not occurred to me. I decided to keep crying for the next three days.
The first night my dog spent with me made me realize the true depths of my own stupidity. I lived in a studio apartment, so I didn't have the luxury of a bedroom door. I had really and truly thought that if I placed a dog bed next to my bed, my new dog would understand to sleep there, peacefully, until my alarm went off eight hours later. At that point, we would calmly rise and share some pleasant small talk over a continental breakfast. What actually happened was that she jumped immediately into my bed and refused to leave. This had not occurred to me. I decided to start crying again. To date, she has never slept in that dog bed.
The first time my dog growled at me, I threw myself onto my bed and sobbed "how could you?" I wish I could pretend this was a joke. It is, embarrassingly, a true story. I had broken up with my boyfriend the day before, and this betrayal — on top of everything else — was too much to bear.
At the time I didn't know about resource guarding, defensive behaviors dogs sometimes perform around things like food or their places of sleep (read: MY bed). While extremely annoying, resource guarding is pretty common and can be fixed with training. Most importantly, it's not something you should take personally. This did not occur to me. I cried for like, another six months.
The first time my dog met my current boyfriend's cat, who would later go on to live with us, she chased him around the entire apartment, not understanding that cats don't play like dogs do. The cat has now lived with us for six months. Pistachio still does not understand why he won't play with her. It makes me laugh every day.
I've had Pistachio for almost five years now. I still cry a lot. Dogs are frustrating and hard. Sometimes they bark at nothing for three hours. Sometimes they wolf down a mouthful of coffee beans you dropped before you can stop them. Dogs will really scare the hell out of you by eating stupid things, trying to run out your door, getting weird rashes on their necks, and barking at a corner of your room until you're convinced there's a ghost there. They are not always the brightest, or the best behaved. But having a dog has taught me that I'm capable of loving a creature in spite of its MANY, MANY, MANY flaws. (I hope Pistachio is reading this.) This had not occurred to me. I'm glad I know it now.