Dog Days [Life]
It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that my first word at 1 year old was ‘doggie’. My version of “I’ve been doing gymnastics since I could walk” is “I’ve talked about dogs since I could speak”. Being obsessed with dogs is one of the only traits about myself that has stayed consistent for the last 30 years. Being a social butterfly or a logistics guru ebs and flows depending on my job or mental state. But doggos…consistency.
I remember when I was probably 10, Bear was slowing down and having a hard time walking and eating. One night, he came in to my room and slept at the foot of my bed. He had never slept in my room in the 10 years prior. The next day, Bear passed away.
My mom would often make jokes that I should have a restraining order around dog parks, the same way pedophiles aren’t allowed to come within 30 feet of schools. She didn’t mean it to be gross, but the point was that I couldn’t help myself. I would cross streets to meet a good boy. I would know a beauty was behind me before it even turned the corner.
I was visiting some friends in Manhattan for the first time in my early 20’s and realized that their apartment was next to a dog park. I stopped by the dog park multiples times a day during that trip. Just to stand on the other side of the fence and watch (marvel at) the city dogs happily play with each other.
There’s never a time where I cease to tell the person i’m with that “theres’s a good dog over there” or “i’m just going to go say hi real quick”.
This year my friend was going to buy a golden retriever from a breeder. She started to go see the puppy a couple weeks after it was born. After hearing that one of my only bucket list items was to lay in a pile of puppies, she asked the owner if her friend could come over and meet the pups. When I entered the garage that held a pen with 11 one month old puppies, i had to turn around and walk back out. It’s hard to register what’s going on when you see something like that. I slowly walked back in, mouth agape, and met the puppies. We released the pups in to the yard and once appropriate, i laid in the grass and let the puppies run all over me. It was a dog pile i’ll never forget.
More than marriage or babies, i’d always envisioned the day i’d get my own dog. The true indicator of maturity or adulthood would be picking out a dog that was all mine. Through my 20s, periods of self reflection and goal setting was mostly focused on analyzing my ability to be a dog parent. Was I ready to come straight home after work and skip the happy hour? Was I financially stable enough to pay for pricey vet bills? Was I even allowed to have a dog in my apartment and would my roommates ever go for it?
Jay and I started having the conversation about dog parenting and what it would take to feel ready in 2019. Once we bought a car and got the dog certified as an emotional support dog (the only way our apartment would let us have one), we would be ready. I started to follow every shelter in the Bay Area and go visit when i’d see dogs that fit our criteria. We had visited half a dozen dogs before we found Lula (formerly known as Bunny). When we met Lula, I was hooked. She checked all my boxes: female, grey pitbull, small, affectionate, good with kids + other dogs, and not horrible on the leash. Jay and I came home and decided we’d be back in a few days to make Lula ours.
Our first few months with Lula was like your first pair of Dr. Martin boots- you gotta get through the bloody blisters before you’ve got a pair of trusty, sturdy, comfortable shoes. There’s a lot of irony in the fact that Lula was meant to help our anxiety and mental health. It should also be mentioned that I fell hard and fast for this dog. A feeling that presumably most parents can relate to- this creature that keeps you up at night, makes you question your abilities as an adult, makes your neighbors hate you, but you’ve never loved anything more in your entire life. It made every obstacle and challenge with her way more emotional than I could have imagined. I cried a lot those first few months. I also felt proud, cozy, and enamored.
Pitbulls are known to be loyal, family dogs. That meant Lula didn’t leave my side. It also meant that she was really upset when we had to go to work. She was very food motivated so people told us training her would be easy. It also meant that she devoured chicken bones and banana peels that littered the streets of Oakland. She loved humans and couldn’t contain her excitement when people would come over.
We quickly learned that other people thought she was as beautiful as we did. We made friends everywhere we went. People wanted to meet Lula, point out how strong she was, ask how old she was since her baby face was deceiving, and gush about her beautiful coat. I would hear little kids pass me and tell their parents to “look at that pooch!” We continue to have people stop their cars in the middle of the street and ask if we use Lula to breed (unwanted attention).
We’re coming up on a year of having Lula (and definitely the weirdest year of our lives) and I continue to reflect on the energy, time, emotions, money, and love we’ve put in to helping get Lula to a good place. Our year with Lula has helped us to discover all the best trails, get closer to our friends who also have dogs, and taught Jay and I how to work as a team…as dog parents. I’ve held her close, cried on her soft coat, laughed at her floppy lips, cleaned her belly, attempted to brush her teeth, and shared adventures together, just she and I.
As I write this, she sits next to me, staring- wondering when her dinner will be served. And as her loyal servant and mother, I will feed her the only kibble that she’s not allergic to with a side of pureed pumpkin, for the good poops. She is the dog that i’ve looked forward to my whole life.