Thursday, June 25, 2009

My Personal Herores: My Dogs

Stick with me on this post: the reason that my dogs are heroes is probably not what you expect. And for those of you who have known me as primarily a cat person, you might be surprised that I own a dog---two, actually, since January of this year. So let me share with you how I came to be a dog parent and lover and how my dogs have changed my life.

Prior to my trip-and-fall, my hubby and I were exploring our family building options through adoption. After my trip-and-fall in October 2004 and subsequent entry into life with chronic pain, those plans got put on the shelf. In 2007, I started grieving my multiple losses as the result of my life with chronic health problems. I also began to switch my focus from treating my chronic health problems to living my best life with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, dysautonomia and thoracic outlet syndrome. I still wanted to hold onto the hope that maybe, some way, I could once again proceed with our family building plans.

Not wanting to start the process without some confidence that I could do this, I decided that a good test case and interim step was adopting a dog. After all, dogs need more time and attention than cats and adopting a dog would help me gauge if I could handle the increased work and daily responsibilities of raising a child. I toyed with the idea for several months and finally decided to move forward with this plan in January 2008. With my youngest sister with me, I visited the West Los Angeles Animal Shelter on the Thursday afternoon just
to see what kind of dogs were available. I set my sights on a miniature poodle who was on a hold and available in a couple of days.

Robert expressed his concern when I shared my find with him when he got home from work. Skeptical about my ability to physically be able to care for a dog, he tried to convince me to reconsider. But my mind was made up and I was adamant. In an effort to change Robert's mind I suggested we go visit the dog I had in mind on Saturday afternoon. He reluctantly came along and when I showed him the dog I tentatively named Ralph, the dog didn't really appeal to Robert. Since he wasn't available for adoption until the following day, we moved on the visit some of the other dogs in the shelter.

That's when Robert saw this toy poodle and ask, "What about this dog?" Available to adopt that day, we asked an attendant if we could interact with this dog in the visiting area. Poor little poodle appeared a little dazed; he had been given up by his owners and moved from the South L.A. to West L.A. shelter that day. "I like this dog," Robert said. With that statement I knew Robert changed his mind and was on board with my plan. To seal the deal, I let Robert name our new dog and he picked the name Brunswick after his love of bowling and the fact that, at 15 pounds, he weighed as much as a bowling ball.

A year later, when we took Brunswick to Urban Dog doggie day care, he met a puppy named Theodor. Brunswick doesn't get along with a lot of other dogs, but he seems to take a liking to Theodor. Robert thought he was cute, so we took him home for a trial sleep over and in 24 hours decided to let Brunswick have a dog of his own.

I won't lie: it has been a huge adjustment for me taking care of my dogs. My chronic illness can be very unforgiving and adding any new activity, especially one done day after day, often has a huge negative impact on me. Despite some added pain and fatigue, I have come to enjoy owning a dog and overall, my dogs have changed my life for the better. Here is how:

  1. They get me out of the house every day, several times a day, and into the sunshine and fresh air, even when I am having a bad day. Sometimes we even go to the park and the dog park.
  2. They attract the attention of neighbors and strangers, which in turn increases my contact with my neighbors and other people in the neighborhood.
  3. Since I want them to be well-behaved, I take them to training at Petsmart where I meet new people and they meet other dogs. Training gives me a new skill to learn and practice with my dogs at home.
  4. They help me establish a daily routine because they need to be fed, pottied and walked on a schedule. My life used to revolve around my work; now my life revolves around my dogs, which I don't mind at all.
  5. Brunswick especially has ignited my interest in a mutual goal for both of us: for me to train him to be a therapy dog. That way, I get to volunteer and help other people with Brunswick at my side!
  6. I don't feel so lonely spending most of my days alone at home with my dogs to keep me company.
  7. Brunswick and Theodor give Robert and me something to share and bond over.
I still don't know if we will be able to build a human family of our own through adoption. In the meantime, being a doggie parent has helped quell some of those longings for me. I enjoy all the positive energy my dogs bring to my life and for that they are my furry HEROES.

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