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October 14, 2021

My dog has raised me.

Adopting a dog (or cat, or parrot) isn’t about us, merely. It’s a responsibility. In taking care of a sentient being…we may find ourselves grow up! And why rescue vs. buying from a breeder or pet shop? Millions of pets are killed every year—that’s incalculable heartbreak.

Things I’ve learned over the years about my rescue hound that I wish I knew from the beginning: he prefers to hang outdoors if it’s warm enough (living in a college area, I regularly see dogs ignored by their owners, kept inside, returned to the Humane Society). I need to take him out (not just in my backyard, usually) for more frequent bathroom breaks. To feed him a little less than I initially did. He deserves better food than most of us feed our pets—that, along with consistent exercise (he likes to trot alongside my bike), has been the best way to keep him healthy (he’s 14 now). He needs to dip in the creek in summers, to stay cool. He needs to be warm at night (I keep my home cool at night in winters, so a few blankets have become his). He needs consistent discipline—sitting before food, walking alongside not pulling, entering new spaces after me so he looks to me for direction. He loves vegan dog food as long as it’s yummy (the average dog diet kills 200 animals a year—if our love for our pet excuses so much suffering and death, that’s a messed up love). When greeting tense dogs, relax, then intro them to the rears, not face-first.

Adopting a pet is a daily, expensive responsibility (forget plastic toys and cute outfits, invest in regular checkups, good real food and natural, not plastic-filled dog beds). We may train them, but they train us (giving us the gift of patience, exertion, working with upset

when he gives snowy, midnight chase to a skunk, or running across a street to see a dog pal). Be the leader: in charge, but never aggressive—it’s never the dog’s fault, they just don’t get it. First thing you’re not doing enough of if your dog is going nuts: make sure they have enough time to hike, run, walk, smell, wrestle, play, and relax with you and their doggy friends. If he hasn’t had enough exercise, that’s my bad.

My dog has raised me.

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