When we bought our house last year I was ecstatic about two things: 1) I could redesign a house the way I've wanted to forever and 2) The light at the end of my dog-less life tunnel was finally in sight. I love my job and am so happy with my switch to an interior design career, but if someone had told me that I could only choose one of my childhood dreams to come true, I would've taken a dog in a heartbeat.
Today marks one year since we adopted our big, goofy hound, Fred. We had been married less than a month and I was still job hunting, and with my days mostly free, it seemed like a great time to bring a dog home. I had wanted a dog my entire life and Fred was the embodiment of that life-long desire. Weighing in at a solid 70 lbs, Fred was (and still is) an unruly, too-friendly boy who tested my patience more than I care to admit. He was also intensely loving and immediately bonded to us. The first night we had him we couldn't get him to sleep in a crate quietly. He refused to rest anywhere but our bed, tossing and turning the whole night, sandwiched between the two of us where he insisted on being while we attempted to sleep. The next day I finally got him to rest with me on the sofa, immediately breaking my no-dogs-on-the-sofa rule and marking the first of many snuggly naps together.
Our house was Fred's fourth home almost two months. He was in a new, unfamiliar place, wracked with separation anxiety. He barked his hound bark almost relentlessly when we left and we feared our new neighborhood would hate us. When I got home he would curl up next to me on the sofa with his squishy hound face and immediately (perhaps for both of us) all would feel right with the world. We worked with him and gradually the relentless barking turned into one or two barks when we left. Training him quickly became my new hobby. He still needs A LOT more training but I'm proud of the progress we've made together.
With graduation and getting married, adult responsibility was old news for me by the time July rolled around. Still, never before had anything, human or animal, depended on me with its life. It was a little terrifying. Was I capable of giving him a better home than he had before he was in the shelter? Will I do this well for both of us in the long term? Thankfully, Fred and I figured out how to take care of each other. He's my best bud when Kyle works long hours, and I've learned to trust my instincts to protect and take care of him when he shows me what he needs. Kyle and I have worked out a routine to care for a dog, which has been a learning/growing experience for both of us. But we got so comfortable with it that we decided to add another canine member to the family in December, our little lady Bella Sophia (Sophie).
One of my grandpa's favorite sayings was, "Don't sweat the small stuff...and by the way, it's all small stuff." That always seemed silly to me. Sometimes life throws you challenges that are by no means small stuff and to say otherwise seemed unreasonable and dismissive. Fred has helped me understand that attitude better than I did when my grandpa recited it. I've let go of things I used to care about much more--throw pillows neatly in place, a pretty marble coffee table that doesn't support canine wrestlemania--and I don't miss them. Our house and life don't require micromanaging and I'm happiest living in this environment of loving imperfection.
On a deeper level, Fred's resilience and willingness to forgive help put my own attitude in perspective. In the past 18 months Fred went from living with his family in West Virginia, to a rural shelter for 4 months, to Washington DC and multiple foster families, and finally to us. This dog has had a rough life, but even on days when I regrettably leave him in his crate longer than I intend or I can't squeeze in the walk he needs and deserves, his tail is perpetually wagging. It's a simple, constant reminder to have faith that despite challenges, things will always eventually be OK.
It's crazy to think about that first night with Fred in our home while I look at him now, sound asleep in his dog bed on our bedroom floor next to Sophie. I can't help but think that this year will always be near to me, newlyweds in our first little home with our loyal, goofy hounds. Happy adoptiversary Fred!
Fred and Sophie were both adopted through City Dogs Rescue + City Kitties, a wonderful animal rescue organization in Washington, DC responsible for saving the lives of both our beloved pets and many others. They have an incredible support network of alumni and volunteers and do wonderful work towards their mission to rescue animals. Consider donating to City Dogs Rescue today.