10 Things My Adventure Dog Has Taught Me.
I adopted Millie, a 20 pound terrier mix, from the Human Society in Fargo, ND when she was just 6 months old. I had been searching for the right dog for a few months after I had completed grad school, but struggled to find the right one. Right after Christmas in 2009, I found out that three puppies were at the Humane Society. Millie (whose name was Sprite originally) was there with her two rambunctious brothers. When I went to meet them, the boy dogs played together but Millie cautiously approached me and as I soon as I saw those big ears and sweet disposition, I knew she was the one for me.
I picked her up on January 3rd, 2010, and we learned a lot about each other. I had never had a dog of my own and Millie was new to a lot of stuff too. While she knew how to do her business outside, she didn’t know how to walk on a leash, go down stairs, and was terrified of car rides, strangers, kids, and anything that moved fast (like a bicycle). She got over some of those fears (she now loves car rides and will bound up steps and over logs while hiking) but still remains afraid and protective when it comes to kids who run fast and bicycles.
While Millie learned a few things from me, I think I have learned a lot more from her.
Here are a few things she taught me:
- I have had to learn how to truly be patient and lower expectations of perfect behavior. Millie loves to try to sneak socks to chew them up and as a puppy she got in all sorts of trouble by chewing up tissues or other things. I used to get really angry, but I’ve become better at changing not only my behavior (making sure no sock is left behind), and also trying to just laugh when she does something she knows she shouldn’t do. It’s just a little dirt or a tissue and as long as she is safe, it doesn’t matter.
- Every day is new. Even when I have yelled at Millie or been angry, she forgets about it quickly and quite happily moves on. She never holds a grudge or withholds affection.
- Dogs give so much more than they take. Yes, pet ownership is really expensive, especially when you are single and have to pay for pet boarding or a sitter every time you go on a weekend adventure. Food, vet bills, toys, etc. add up, but I wouldn’t trade any of it. She is always there for me when I am sad, she is the best leg and feet warmer, my best friend, and she is the one who makes me go outside even if I am not in the mood.
- It’s o.k. to get messy and dirty. Everything can be cleaned but memories can’t be remade. The memories that often standout are the ones where things didn’t go right: the time Millie rolled herself in cat poop in a city park while we were on vacation in New Orleans and staying at a nice hotel; the times she runs into the ocean and then rolls around in the sand until she has sand in every part of her body; or the times she has gotten so muddy she became a black dog instead of a white one.
- Adventures are the best. It doesn’t matter whether I am driving to go drop off something to recycle or going on an overnight camping trip, Millie cannot wait to jump into the car. She loves to open the car window (yes, she learned how to push the automatic window opener button) and breathe the fresh air with so much joy on her face.
- It doesn’t matter where you are if you are with the ones you love. I have taken Millie from her home in Fargo, ND to live in southern Ohio where it is hot and humid in the summers to Oregon where it rains all winter. I have taken her on camping trips, road trips, to big cities and hotels, kayaking, a school bus and a chair lift down to a trailhead. She adjusts, trusts me, and is happy wherever I am.
- Take joy in small pleasures and stay curious. Millie is 8 ½ and still jumps for joy each day at dinner time. She is still excited about a new toy or when a friend comes to visit. Imagine if we took that much joy each day how exciting ordinary days would be. Breakfast! Lunch! Toys! Ball! Couch snuggles!
- Appreciate the smallest details in nature. Millie can spend a good 5 minutes smelling each intricate detail of a bush or a blade of grass to pick out each unique smell. Imagine if we all did this with each tree, each wildflower, or cloud in the sky how in awe of the world we would be.
- Love grows stronger. When I got Millie, I had taken her to a puppy training course. I had only had her for about 3 months and felt like I was so in love with her and that we had a really strong bond. The trainer told me that we were still new to getting to know each other and that we would create a strong bond and trust as time went on. I didn’t believe her much at the time, but she was absolutely right. I’ve come to know and depend on Millie so much in the last 8 years and cannot imagine a world where she is not in it (though I know one day this will be a reality I will have to face).
- It’s o.k. to be lazy and snuggle. In the summer, I feel this pull to try to squeeze out enough adventure to fulfill me for the year, but even so, it’s good to just take some time to lay on the couch, relax and cuddle.
I hope I have many more years with my adventure dog and I hope that remember to enjoy all of the moments I am lucky enough to spend with her.