Home Is Wherever I Am With You!

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“A Dog has no use for fancy cars, big homes, or designer clothes. A water-logged stick will do just fine. A dog doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb. Give him your heart and he’ll give you his. How many people can you say that about? How many people can make you feel rare and pure and special? How many people can make you feel extraordinary?”-Marley and Me

It is no secret that we can’t control what we are born into. Our families represent the cards we were dealt, but they do not have to dictate the lives we choose to live. From a very young age, I knew that I had to create my own future and my own sense of stability- and I was determined to do it the right way. I made a commitment to provide for myself, work hard, put family first and to fall in love with the simple things in life. What I did not know was that one fateful day, my life would change for the better-all due to the adoption of my first rescue.

Although I now have three dogs, Cody was the first dog I ever adopted. I was in college and 20 years old when I parked my car in a Best Buy parking lot intending to buy an ink cartridge for my printer. However, my plans changed when I saw that Petsmart was hosting a local animal rescue right next door. An adoption sign immediately caught my eye and before I knew it, I had taken a detour that would completely change everything.

As soon as I walked in, I instantly gravitated toward a litter of little lab-dalmatian mix puppies that had been rescued and needed a home. One puppy seemed to shine like no other. I picked him up and I never put him down. From that moment on, he was my baby and I would do whatever it took to make sure he was well taken care of. Cody is my entire world and since that day, has always been my number one priority. All of my favorite pastimes and activities – hiking, boating, long walks, late night movies and road trips to North Carolina (or anywhere) -all involve Cody (as well as Maggie and Jack who I adopted in more recent years.)

Eleven years after that fateful day at Petsmart, it is difficult to explain just how profound an impact Cody has had on my world. Caring for him has taught me so much about responsibility-even from a young age. From the very first day that I brought him home, I knew I had to invest my time into training him (see previous post for training tips) in order to ensure that he stayed safe (and in an effort to keep my shared college apartment in one piece while I was out at class every day.) Several years later, when my twenty-something friends were out day-drinking on Saturdays until the early evenings, I always had to pack it in early and be the ‘responsible’ one so that I could get home to feed Cody. I must add that this was a responsibility that often drove my friends crazy.

My love for Cody and his breed ultimately led me to rescue another lab-mix puppy (Maggie) four years later. The two of them have become the best of friends and are seriously inseparable. Several years after adopting Maggie, a jack russell terrier was abandoned right outside of my office in Ybor City. Given my love for dogs and my track record, I simply couldn’t resist “fostering” him until I found him the perfect home, which of course meant that “Ybor Jack” ended up joining our crew.

But even more than responsibility, structure, and training, my three dogs have taught me more about the meaning of love and life than any human could possibly ever teach me. The three of them give me an incredible sense of a purpose each day. Simply put: nothing comes before them because they are my family. They have given me the precious gifts of loyalty, companionship and unconditional love. They have showed me that the simplest things (long walks, hikes and even quiet times spent at home) are what enrich our lives the most. Cody is my best friend and my most loyal companion. Out of all three of the dogs, he is the one that never leaves my side. He’s forever with me and is always eager to welcome me home with a wagging tail the second I open the door.

It is incredible what rescuing an animal can teach you about life. As a result, I have become a passionate advocate for animals. I’m committed to doing whatever I can (both physically and financially) to protect animals from abuse, neglect and sickness. To this day, my three dogs continue to bring more joy to my life than anything else I have encountered thus far. They have truly become my safety net and my family- and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is my life’s mission to encourage everyone to rescue a dog if at all possible. Pets are proven to have a profound impact on your health and happiness, but most importantly-they are known for providing one of the truest forms of unconditional love.

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