Everyone wants something to love. Whether you want a cat, dog, hamster, pet rock — you want a little friend to cuddle up with, to hang out with through the good times and the bad…someone to love you unconditionally.
I am one of these people. I grew up with a dog. His name was Lucky and he was a fluffy, soft-coated Wheaten terrier. He was a force of energy and cuteness, and I loved to cuddle him and let him lick my cheeks. It was crushing when Lucky passed away my junior year of high school, and since that day, I knew I wanted a dog of my own.
Over the years, my puppy fever continued to mount — reaching a fever pitch, as Adele would say. I saw so many young professionals with dogs during my time on both the east and west coasts, and I wanted that life — that “I’m going to a microbrewery with my rescue dog” life, that “I spend my Saturdays on trails with my Aussie” life.
Fast forward to the beginning of my last semester of undergrad. On Jan. 8, I went to Hamilton’s Animal Friends Humane Society to learn more about the pet adoption process. All I wanted was to learn, genuinely.
I made the 30-minute drive from Oxford, talked to the woman at the front desk about the adoption process, filled out the paperwork and made a rookie mistake that changed my life forever — I said yes when the woman asked if I wanted to go to the back to see the dogs, foolishly thinking I could leave without one.
I strolled by kennel after kennel, poking my fingers through the wire to scratch dogs’ heads, feeding them treats and cooing at them. I had almost made it through my loop, without feeling too attached to any of the dogs, when I saw her sitting in the third to last gate.
She was curled up into a little ball of fur and weighed maybe 20 pounds. When she saw me walking over, she unrolled, stretched and started wagging her tail. In a shelter full of barking, frantic dogs, she was calm, looking at me intently. She started licking my fingers.
I reached through the gate to scratch her ear. She closed her eyes and I swear she smiled. I admired how soft her coat was, the sleekest color of onyx. Her little white paws made her look like she was always wearing socks. Her snout was white with little black spots, and her black nose was sniffing eagerly at the treat in my other hand.
“Well, I’ve never seen her get up to come say hi to anyone like that,” the volunteer two kennels down said.
Of course my heart melted into a million pieces. I knew she was the one.
It was kind of like the saying in “Harry Potter”: “The wand chooses the wizard.” I felt like Mia chose me. It felt magical when she looked at me, wagging her tail and whimpering when I started walking away.
Max, my boyfriend and moral compass, told me I had to wait. I had to go home, sleep on it, do research on the cost of having a dog and assess whether or not I could do it with my schedule.
I left begrudgingly, knowing Mia was not yet adopted and that I was already approved for adopting a pup from that facility.
I waited 24 hours. I did the research. I made dozens of spreadsheets and pro-con lists. I couldn’t get her face out of my head.
The minute the shelter opened the following day, I called and asked breathlessly if Kia (what the shelter originally named her) was still available, prepared for the worst news.
“Let me look it up,” the lady said, uninterested in my manic excitement. “Yes, she is.”
I ran to my car, drove an average of 20 miles over the speed limit to get to Hamilton in a record 22 minutes, slapped my debit card down on the table and said, “I’m here to get my dog Kia.”
I adopted her, but couldn’t take her home right away because she wasn’t spayed. I went to the shelter four days straight to hang out with her and train her a bit. Then they said they’d let me take her home through their foster-to-adopt program if I pinky-promised to bring her back to be fixed (and sign a bunch of forms saying they’d arrest me if I didn’t).
I haven’t looked back since. Not when she had barking fits that kept me from sleeping. Not when she started nipping at every houseguest I had over. Not when she jumped up onto my kitchen counter and ate three chocolate chip cookies. Not when she peed on my bed, carpet and favorite blanket. Not even when she sprinted through the side door of my house across Spring Street and narrowly missed getting hit by a car.
She’s my forever friend in every sense of the word. And I’ve spent hours every day training her from the wiley, nippy stray to the sweetest, most well-mannered girl.
She brings me out of my depression. Every day, I wake up to see that she snuck up onto my bed in the middle of the night and is burrowed in a pile of pillows and blankets.
She yawns, gives my cheek a lick and stares at me with those big brown eyes, and I feel like I have a reason to get out of bed.