Why You Should Get a Dog (When Everyone Tells You Not To)

Happy Adoptiversary, Alli! We’ve been together for nine human years!!!

They say you know when you know, and “they” were right. On August 4, 2007 I met the love of my life and I just knew she was the one. I was working a marketing job in Birmingham, AL, right outside of a PETSMART. It was over 100 degrees outside and on the road it was normal for me to feel a little (or a lot) pet deprived. I’d scratch and pet every dog I saw and even stopped off in a shelter or two to walk their adoptable pups. You see, I had wanted my own dog for years and it never seemed like the right time. Living in L.A. didn’t pan out and then I found myself driving back and forth across the country for the better part of three years. However, on August 4, 2007 that was all about to change. I knew I was leaving the road behind me and moving to Boston at the start of September. But, little did I know what I would find when I walked through that pet store door.

Enter the dog of my dreams.

I remember it was nice and air-conditioned inside, and as I walked around the store it felt so good to be out of that hot Alabama air, but not as good as seeing a pile of pups squiggling and playing. One by the name of “Susie” caught my attention. She was lanky and oh-so-cute. She had long, skinny legs and was playing with some smaller terrier puppies. I remember some kids observing them and saying, “She’s their Mom.” She was only about five months old at the time, but she was very calmly attending to the little black pups, nurturing them even. She just had this special way about her (and still does) that is inherently zen and completely visceral. Over the years it’s led people to tell me that, “She’s the Snow White of Dogs” and that “She’s a Buddha Dog.” But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Back to the beginning, now insert that feeling of knowingness. I knew “Susie” was it. So, I left and did what everyone does when they know they’ve met someone special…I called my family. Well, family member after family member told me not to adopt her even though I wasn’t asking for their opinions. Besides I was in my later 20s at this point and I didn’t need anyone’s approval. Regardless of the lack of familial support (which admittedly has never held me back before), I knew what I had to do.

The next morning August 5, 2007 I marched into that PETSMART and filled out the Mittens & Mutts Rescue & Adoption Agreement (the rescue operating out of the pet store on this particular weekend). The only problem was that I didn’t live in Alabama, so I lied and said that I did. In fact, I used the address of a woman who I’d met while working earlier that week. She was a super friendly woman with short-hair who had kids and lived in Pelham, AL. In my mind their house had a big yard for a dog, but also the scorching Alabama heat. It was 105 degrees that day and for the first time I felt like I was rescuing “Susie” from something awful.

After filling out the adoption release form and giving the foster woman $125 in cash to cover her vaccinations up to this point, preliminary deworming and her spay had we stayed in Alabama, I went back to finish working in the big, hot Alabama sun. That night me and the foster lady met up in a Wal-Mart parking lot where I had previously purchased “Susie” a nice little pink collar and leash that she readily chewed through and a little green blanket that we amazingly still have to this day. Then I stopped to get a salad and left Alli in the company car, which I somehow luckily finagled all to myself that weekend (had I not none of this would have been possible). Of course, I left the AC on full blast as I ran inside and of course that inadvertently caused the battery to die. While we patiently waited for AAA, this dog looked at me like I was some kind of alien and she continued to look at me like that for the entire road trip.

First stop, a dog-friendly hotel (which ain’t easy to find in the sticks of Alabama I might add) where my Buddha puppy proceeded to pee all over the floor and refused to eat any food. That was a great first night let me tell you! The next day, I figured I should come up with a better name for her because “Susie” wasn’t working for either of us. Her back story is that she was from a little town called Alexander City, AL where she and her sister Sassy couldn’t find homes. Therefore, they were transferred to the rescue in Birmingham for a better chance at a life. I studied Geography in school and places and names fascinated me, so I started thinking about Alex City, Alabama which was ultimately the inspiration for her name. But, how should I spell it I thought? Let me count the ways…there’s Allie, Alley, Alie, Ali, Ally, Aly, Aley and more. Just as I was thinking that, I stopped to get gas (still in Alabama); I enter the station to pay for said gas and lo and behold there’s an alligator on the door. Alli was meant to be! Although she still didn’t seem too interested in me or food as we made our way Northward.

We stopped along the way and landed at my first childhood best friend’s house in Louisville, KY. Alli liked her furniture and loved her cats. The next morning we decided to take Alli for a walk with my friend’s boyfriend (at the time) and I remember him saying that I’ll never keep Alli. I’m still happy after all these years to have proved him wrong. But, I figure he had said that because she had absolutely zero interest in the walk just like she didn’t seem to care for me or for food (which is unimaginable to me now and her I’m sure).

In any case we kept moving right along to my home state of Ohio, but before we arrived I stopped at a rest area. Alli just peered up at me from the back of the company GMC as if to say, “Where are you taking me now, alien? Back to the rescue with all the other dogs and cats I hope!” But, I wasn’t. We weren’t going that way. Instead I walked toward the rest area and noticed a young woman with a sign asking for help. She was asking for money or whatever you could give, so I went back to the GMC SUV and got out the peanut butter and bread that I had been traveling with to make her a sandwich and as soon as I opened the jar Alli perked up in a way I hadn’t seen before. Finally, she was interested in something edible! She actually loved the peanut butter so much that I briefly considered changing her name to P.B. But, I quickly remembered that Alli was her destiny! We departed the rest area after giving the young woman several car-made peanut butter sandwiches and continued on our way.

We finally arrived in Ohio where my Mom wasn’t happy to see us and neither was my brother’s dog Pacey. Well, they weren’t happy to see Alli at least. But, my Mom’s dog Duke was and he quickly made Alli feel right at home. For three weeks Alli lived there with my Mom, Duke, and Pacey while I worked. She even started to grow on Pacey towards the end of her stay. So, when the day came to leave she stood behind him and watched as I packed the car. We took two cars, my Mom’s ’95 Oldsmobile and my brother’s ’98 Jeep Cherokee (both cars are still functioning with their respective owners, so no cars were harmed in the making of this story — just FYI). We loaded up the cars with plates and bowls, silverware, portable furniture, a very old TV set, some new rugs and a desk from Pottery Barn. In the end, the cars were filled to the brim except for the driver’s seats, and the passenger seat of my Mom’s car, which was reserved for Alli.

When it came time to leave she didn’t refuse, she knew I was her pet parent. She didn’t exactly know me as her “Mom” yet, but with time she would learn that I was her Mom and every time I ask her to this day, “Who’s your Mom?” She will respond by licking my face. She’s always been quite the licker! So, Mom and baby loaded into the car and Alli slept the entire way almost 14 hours! My Dad, who was driving the Jeep, and I slept for like 45 minutes at a fueling station about an hour outside of Boston on the turnpike. We just couldn’t drive anymore.

When we got to Boston it was September 1, 2007 and there was a line of cars forming to get off the exit to Allston. It seemed like all of the Boston University students as well as all of the other students from Massachusetts’ hundreds of colleges and universities were moving in that day, too. Needless to say it took a while to get to the apartment, but once we did it was smooth sailing. It didn’t take Alli long to settle into her new home thanks in part to Ringer Park. The first time we visited she went straight up the hill where, fortunately, dogs were permitted off-leash. She obviously knew where her kind were welcomed with open paws. It was in that park where she first met Simon (a yellow lab who was survived cancer), McGregor (a brindled plott hound mix who was and still is the exact same age and size as she is), and Ben (a black lab mutt from Tennessee who became her instant playmate every time they met even if it was in the middle of the road)!

We lived in Boston for nearly seven and a half years and Alli had more friends there than I did! Everyone who met her knew that she was something special. Even every member of my family apologized for telling me not to adopt her. But, I’m probably the only one who will ever know just how truly special she is. She is my longest relationship, my comforter when I’m upset, and my true love. Some people have another person who is their constant companion helping them through their ups and downs, but I have had a dog, and God I’m glad that I do. In the years to come she helped me through major losses and abuse, extremely tough decisions made and regretted, several broken relationships, and just life in general. Life is better with her and she deserves all the love in the world.

This photo was taken at Mike and I’s wedding almost four months ago on April 23, 2016 where she was my consummate support. She didn’t leave my side, not even once although she was supposed to be in the bridal suite by the time food was served. Instead I sat on the floor with her and fed her three plates of steak in my gown. Everywhere I went she went, be it the dance floor, the dining room or even the bathroom. She is my constant, my rock, and I’m more than okay with that. My Dad even overheard someone at the wedding say, “That dog is loved unconditionally” and isn’t that the way it should be?

There is so much more to this story, but I’m so happy it isn’t over.