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There are so many benefits of having a dog that it's easy to see why so many people welcome pups into their family. Dogs are loyal and loving animals that help their pet parents get exercise, improve socialization, and even boost their moods. If after adopting a pet you thought, "Wow, my dog changed my life," know that you are not alone! Here are four stories from four incredible women whose lives were changed forever after adopting a dog.
Help in Getting Over Your Fears
Meet Kayla and Odin
First interactions can dictate a lifetime of fear. If a person comes in contact with an aggressive, untrained dog and things go wrong, he or she may develop anxieties that are difficult to break. Though, just because something is difficult, doesn't mean it can't be overcome.
"When I was little, I was bit pretty bad in the face by a dog. It was a full-grown golden retriever, and supposedly the nicest dog in the neighborhood. I had reached down to pet him, but for some reason he didn't like that and snapped at me." Kayla says. "My entire life, I was terrified of dogs. It didn't matter the size, age or breed, I was just terrified."
When Kayla's boyfriend Bruce introduced her to a Great Dane puppy, she was uneasy. However, the puppy didn't let Kayla's fears ruin their relationship before it could begin. "I started to realize as the puppy grew that he knew my habits, knew I was terrified, and knew my rules, but still wanted to be friends with me." She grew to love Bruce's dog, and then, one year later adopted her own pup. "My life has completely changed because of this, and I think it was the best decision I have ever made. My little puppy, Odin, is now almost three years old. He has been the best decision in Bruce and I's life. Not only do I love him, but every dog. I'm that weird person at the dog park who will literally play and cuddle with every dog."
Finding New Life Passions
Meet Dorie and Chloe
One decision can change your life in ways you weren't expecting. When Dorie was searching for the perfect dog to welcome into her home, she didn't expect the decision would change her life in so many ways. "When I adopted Chloe at the age of nine-and-a-half, I didn't know there was a whole mission building around saving senior dogs. I just wanted an older, more chilled-out dog." says Dorie.
"Adopting a senior dog has completely turned around my life. It has introduced me to a whole new community of friends through both social media and real life. I get to educate people about the crisis of seniors needing homes as well as help other dogs now find homes."
Since Chloe's previous owner could no longer care for her, Dorie started an Instagram of the dog's activities so the previous family could stay connected, if even from a distance. Dorie says, "Chloe's Instagram quickly picked up steam, and I became much more active in rescue and senior-rescue causes in particular as I learned of the crisis of senior rescue. When Chloe's Instagram recently hit 100,000 followers she raised $5,000 for 'fospice' dogs (a foster dog program for very old or terminally ill dogs) – and that's just one of the many ways our lives have changed together. Eventually I was so much happier doing this work that I left my full-time graphic design job, and now I work from home so I can focus much more time and energy on the work I get to do with Chloe for rescue causes.
"Working from home freed me up to adopt another dog, Cupid, who is also a senior. We spend much of our time educating on senior rescue and particularly highlighting the issue of senior Chihuahuas in shelters — where they often wind up when they outlive their owners' ability to care for them. Before I got Chloe, I never felt like I did as much service work as I should. Now I feel like my life is truly full in all areas I want it to be — I have both a full home and a full heart." says Dorie.
Sarah and Woody
Similar to Dorie, Sarah became invested in animal welfare after adopting a shelter dog. "When I was relocated to Raleigh, NC for work, I got involved in a local animal rescue as a volunteer. I 'foster failed,' [meaning she was supposed to foster the dog long enough to be adopted by another family] and adopted a beagle mix," says Sarah, who already had two dogs she brought down with her from Connecticut.
"So what changed my life? I realized the more I got involved with these dogs and the issue with homeless dogs in the U.S., I found greater personal satisfaction from the relationships I had with dogs and the work I could do with canines than any marketing job. So in my mid 50s, I'm making a radical career change to go back to school to be a vet tech, hoping to one day work with a national rescue organization. Yes, all because of this little beagle mix that tugged on my heart after he was returned to the rescue because he was terrified of being crated."
Sarah is now a student at Miller-Motte College and a volunteer with Saving Grace NC and Carolina Basset Hound Rescue. She says, "When I took stock of where I was at this stage in my life, I realized I had a personal affinity with people who are involved in rescue, and in the care of animals. Almost all of the friends I've made since I left NYC in 2010 are through the rescue groups, or the families of people who have adopted dogs I've fostered. It's very personal, very motivating, and once I made the decision to completely get off the exit ramp from the corporate highway, I've never been happier. I started school and love my days there; it's the most grounding experience I've ever had.
In two years when I graduate, I will have the opportunity to grab my dogs, pack my bags and go wherever the dogs need me. And I plan to do that until the day I die."
Moving Past an Abusive Relationship
Meet Jenna and Daeny
Life drastically changed for Jenna long before she adopted a dog. "A year after ending an abusive marriage, I still had a lot of mental health issues. I would wake up in the middle of the night panicking, worried he was in my home. I'd walk down the street constantly looking over my shoulder or jumping at the slightest sounds, had crippling anxiety, depression and PTSD. I was on medication and in therapy, but it was still hard for me to go to work. I was self-destructing," says Jenna.
Someone suggested she adopt a dog to help her adjust. "I thought it was the worst idea; I couldn't even take care of myself." But Jenna adopted a puppy she named Daeny — after Daenerys from Game of Thrones — however, according to Jenna, "She usually goes by Dan."
Life began to change again with a new puppy in her home. "I immediately quit smoking cold turkey because she was so tiny and I didn't want her to get sick." says Jenna. "Daeny was the reason I had to wake up in the mornings. Her little cries to go outside were my motivation to get out of bed. And, we didn't just get out of bed. Dan came with me everywhere I went. Suddenly I realized I was sleeping through the night and not looking over my shoulder all the time. Life was getting better."
Dogs have an amazing ability to bring about changes in our lives that we never dreamed. These are just four examples of how the adoption of a dog had great effect on someone's lives, and there are countless more stories out there just like these. Have you found yourself thinking, "My dog changed my life?" If so, just remember, you've made a huge difference in his life too. You've both found your forever family!
Erin Ollila is a pet enthusiast who believes in the power of words and how a message can inform–and even transform–its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print. Reach out to her on Twitter @ReinventingErin or learn more about her at http://erinollila.com.