Several months ago, I had a dream that I was stranded on a pure white beach at the edge of a brilliant blue sea. Brick mansions extended into the waves, but all of them were dark and appeared empty. The sun was setting, casting the sky in intense hues of purple and reflecting off the water. I felt lost. I knew I needed to get somewhere, but I didn’t know where or how.

Suddenly, a small brown dog resembling a chihuahua appeared. It came up to me, looked at me and then ran off, so I followed it. It led me far down the beach to another brick mansion. This one had all its lights on, and I could hear the sound of voices laughing, chatting and singing. I followed the dog as it guided me around back, only to find all my friends and family celebrating for no particular reason.

In my dream, I named the dog Lila, the German word for purple, after the sky under which we met.

Back in reality, I felt lost. I didn’t feel any sense of where I was, much like in my dream. Where am I going? Who am I becoming? How do I get to where I need to be? These questions plagued my mind daily and clogged my head to the point where I couldn’t seem to think of anything else.

I take my dreams seriously. I think they often let us see into a part of our brains that we normally cannot reach; they describe to us our deepest, rawest desires. I knew after I had this dream, I needed to get a dog. I let myself drift too far into isolation – I had trapped myself in my own mind. I needed a guide, and I found that guide on Craigslist.

Lila was born in Trenton, OH, about 30 minutes from Oxford. When I got to the house where she resided, she was the first one to greet me, the rest of her litter staying close to their mother. Lila was fearless and jumped on me.

When I picked her up, she dropped the tough puppy act and nuzzled her little head under my chin. For the first time in ages, I felt warm. It felt like my blood was finally pumping again. I looked at my buddy who came with me and said, “I know we’ve only been here for two minutes, but I think this is the one.” After trying and failing to connect with the other pups, I had no doubt in my mind that Lila had to be mine.

Because of Lila, I feel like I have found a reason to be excited again. She is a reason to get out of bed, even if it’s at 7:30 a.m. and a Saturday. I don’t feel so alone anymore because I have this eight-pound, furry shadow that sticks with me wherever I go. She’s helped me reconnect with friends that I have been too distant from, and I’ve watched her bring joy to so many of them. All of them are her aunts and uncles, and they all play a different role: some of them are her playmates, while others are “strict,” holding her accountable and working just as hard as me to train her.

It is so refreshing to see love felt and given on a daily basis. I feel like I can face the world because I know no matter what happens, I will have this little dog to guide me out of solitude and back into the life that I love so much.