The benefits of being “a dog person”

I have a dog. I didn’t always have a dog. Actually, until I was 10, our family pet was no more than a goldfish. Then my parents allowed me to adopt a kitten. That was it though. They liked to travel and a cat allowed for more flexibility. Plus, a cat didn’t need to be walked at all hours of the day in all kinds of weather.

I considered myself a cat person. I adopted a cat when I finally had my own place that allowed pets. When I got engaged to my husband who had a severe cat allergy, I found a new home for the cat. That never sat quite right with me, because he got to keep his dog (who was his from a previous relationship). I decided I was never going to like that dog!

Since we lived in a building that wouldn’t allow dogs, the dog stayed at my mother-in-law’s and he went there to care for it. I didn’t. When we got our first house five years later, Cody, a Miniature Schnauzer, came to live with us. I was ambivalent. Then that first morning with the dog in the new house, that damn dog was so excited to see me get up! I immediately thought, “okay, dogs are different.”

In the days and weeks and years that followed, this dog tried so hard to make me love him every chance he got. And I started to care for him as much as “his dad” did. I was a dog person! Now more than 20 years and two more dogs later I have Enzo. Enzo is an 8-year-old Australian Shepherd-Poodle mix (Aussie-Poo, Aussie-doodle, or designer mutt depending on who you’re talking to).

I absolutely love this dog! When my life was taking so many difficult turns, he was there. I am never completely alone because I have him. He never quite became a runner like my previous Wheaten Terrier, Malachy, but he is so special in his own way.

Malachy and Me. As we appeared in the May 2006 issue of 201:The Best of BergenPhoto Credit; Ted Axelrod

I have learned that having a dog is really good for people. Dogs force people to move. Walking my dog is a big part of why I’m able to make my step goal on days I don’t run. Have you ever noticed that people shopping at all-night grocery stores are buying pet food? We won’t make the effort for ourselves a lot of the time, but we won’t let our pets go without. That’s why dogs are so good for the elderly and people who live alone.

Most of the people I have met in my building since moving to Chicago are fellow dog owners. Even people in the street walking their dogs are so much friendlier and more approachable. Our dogs give us something in common immediately. With the severe cold snap we had in Chicago a few weeks ago, the only people I saw out in my neighborhood (although for only five minutes at a time) were dog owners!

There are times when having to take a dog out at all hours of the day in all kinds of weather can be a bit of a drag, but that is offset by the unconditional love they give us. He is always – 100% of the time! – absolutely happy to see me! If you live alone – or have teenagers – you need that.

Enzo’s first visit to Lake Michigan. Chicago, Illinois. July 2018.


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