In February of 2011, my father thought it was time he adopted a family dog.
My father’s coworker couldn’t take care of his dog anymore; with the birth of his first child 4 months prior, my father’s coworker couldn’t juggle tending to the baby’s needs and tending to his wife’s needs while taking care of his dog, so as a result, dad took him in. My little sister was 10 at the time, and she was thrilled.
His name was JJ, and he was a purebred Maltese. The first day he was in our home, my little sister insisted on walking him around the block. JJ, however, was skittish and wouldn’t walk more than a few feet away from the driveway. Upon his return inside, he sniffed around the house, found a safe space to curl up, and went into hiding for an evening.
That night, I had to work an overnight shift for the hospital I used to work at. Overnight shifts were the best, luggage searches aside. My typical duties included hourly bedroom checks, luggage searches, and adding blank forms to patient charts for the next day. Since there were no admissions over the weekend, I typically didn’t have to do luggage searches, and I got paid the 3rd shift differential, so instead of $12-something per hour, I was making close to $15. It was fantastic. These shifts, especially if I picked up more than one in a week, were brutal on the body. After college, I became less and less capable of staying up all night. When I would come home in the morning, I would pass out within 10 minutes of being there.
I returned home Monday morning after my parents and siblings had left the house for the day, having forgotten that we now had a dog. Upon opening the door, this fuzzy ball of fluff was standing in front of me, wagging his tail and expecting some level of attention. I was tired, though. Too tired to function. I walked past him and to the living room, collapsed on the couch and fell asleep.
I woke up two hours later with my left arm dangling over the side of the couch. Underneath my hand was the little ball of fur known as the family dog. I adjusted my eyes and looked at him, he felt me stir and looked back at me. We were both pretty skeptical of one another at that point and a stare-down occurred. After a sigh, I picked him up and placed him on the couch next to my head. We both fell asleep for an additional hour after that.
When we woke up, it was lunch time. I walked into the kitchen and he quickly followed. Admittedly, I’d really never bonded with an animal up until that point and I didn’t know what to do. As I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I decided I would let him lick the leftover peanut butter off the spoon. And it was at that moment that he knew I would be the one to slide him table scraps.
He cuddled in my lap and watched TV with me for the rest of the day.
He and I became inseparable. He learned how to share my bed with my cat, he learned how to control his bowel movements until I woke up, and I would take him out back and let him do his business, he also learned to dance for treats a month or two later. He got me out of my house when I needed to clear my head and we took long walks around the neighborhood. He snuggled me when I was having a bad day (somehow, both my cat and JJ were able to intuit my feelings). As far as dogs go, he was pretty cool.
It was difficult to leave him at my parents’ house when I moved out, and I tried to find ways to bring him along with me, but reality didn’t allow for it. The apartment is too small, we don’t have a fenced-in yard, and he would be left alone for at least 8 hours a day while my boyfriend and I worked. But he and my now 13 year old sister are enough incentive to get me to visit home once a week.
There you have it. My feel-good story of the day. Have a warm and fuzzy song to go with it.