If you want a dog, whatever your reason may be, and you are willing to sacrifice the time, energy, and money to keep the thing well adjusted and alive- you can have a dog. This is not something I would have said when I got a dog, or even two years after having one.
But I am saying it now.
Much like anything that is dear and cherished to a person's heart, pet ownership attracts a staggering amount of judgement. Folks want to shame everybody else on the planet who reminds them of any short coming or flaw they feel in themselves. If they are doing it well, there is a voice telling them this means they are inherently doing it better or worse than someone else. That's just life, and that's just animals.
This blog post is about my visit to Ewetopia with my dog, Zen [FIgure 2]. It is not a rant against the dog-owner haters, nor is it advice. I would simply like to give anyone reading it the encouragement they absolutely do not need about acquiring, maintaining, and living with the oldest domestic in history. Prized for every single atom in their makeup, dogs can fill the roles of anything and everything you want or need, granted that you are aware of your wants and needs. Awareness is often a challenge, here, because those of us who love life often have some attachment to the inherent empathy provided by pets, and so often project a want as a need or a passing need as an overwhelming desire.
This is my dog, Zen, and he is not in any way a perfect dog [Figure 1]. This is lucky, because I would have no idea what to do if he was, and in any case, he is a monstrous reflection of my own web of neuroses and that just makes me love me more [Figure 3]. I was told not to get a dog. By everyone I freaking knew. Many times over, and in a myriad of different and creative ways. But, my mind was not only made up, I had some serious emotional shit to process (still do) and so I did the research, picked a breed, saved far too little, and got one anyway. Somewhere between sobbing on my kitchen floor at the puppies I had rescued on a float trip that summer, our first obedience lesson, and this exact moment, I figured a bunch of shit out about dog ownership. Since my ADD brain is an eternal fan of lists, here are those things I can recall right this second:
1) I needed a dog to stabilize.
2) I was prepared for the responsibility.
3) My people love me.
4) I have made changes to my life plan.
5) People are going to forever judge the shit out of me for it.
The beautiful part of it all is that, yes, you might have an animal you can't care for. You might get rid of it, it might die, attack someone, ruin property, and other humans along the way. You might realize that you have flippantly ruined a perfectly good dog because you were unprepared to make the "sacrifices" (I put it quotes to illustrate that if you are okay with giving something up, it hardly qualifies as a sacrifice) necessary to socialize and care for it. That might be you. It's a lot of dog owners.
You are not every other dog owner. You are not what others think of you, they are what they think of you. I'm not advocating rushing into getting or forgoing a canine in your life, but just know that if you want to make it work, I think you can. Nay, I believe you can. Or go on a skinny-dipping world tour, or become the first doctor to specialize in cancer from all the negative media, or a kangaroo wrangler. Whatever it is that you find yourself in the middle of the road about. Big life-changing shit is about sitting down, and deciding whether or not you can live with the outcome and remain within the bounds of your personal integrity.
Personally, this meant caring for myself enough to also care for Zen, and I did. From apartments, to over $1,000 in my underwear and electronics he has rampaged through in 3 years, the constant state of my and his things strewn pell-mell across my living space, the toll will be nothing but bliss if you love your choice. And even if you don't, there are a million ways to be a positive influence in a canine's life without direct ownership. It isn't selfish to not have a dog you want because of this reason or that. But, it's also fun to explore the many ways to have a healthy, happy dog. I don't have the photo anymore, but Zen and I got Canine Good Citizen Certified at the end of my graduate program. Honestly, I don't remember a lot of it, all things considered, but there's a certificate somewhere with the proof.
The best part of it all is that a mere 45 minutes south of Tacoma is this fantastic little farm, Ewetopia [Figure 4]. Ewetopia is one of those places that is so good at what it does (farming and dog showing) that they sprawled into the public sector and made a business out of sharing their gifts with the rest of us. You have to call first, so the owners have an idea of how many people with show up on a given day, and then sign a wavier removing them from responsibility for damages. Fairly modest stuff, but the magic is what you find at the end of the dingy dirt road leading to the arena: dog people. And not just any dog people, but tons of city-goers with good, happy dogs, and even a bunch with terrible dogs that are training them into adjustment!
It's a magical place, especially when you have a breed like Zen. Although, some of the best herders were other breeds and many were mutts. This all ties back into the title as follows: if you want a dog, you can have one. People come from the Canadian border, Portland, and all over to take their dogs to Ewetopia, and it's great for everyone and their dogs. Luckily, it's a comfy distance from where I live now. And of course it is!
The universe is nothing but energy, positive and negative. There is more positive than negative out there, though, punctuated by the fact that you and I are here and that life exists anywhere in the cosmos. Thus, positive energy attracts other positives, and negatives straggle behind, trying to keep up with the good vibrations permeating the void. Translation: when you are on the positive course, you will likely encounter some positive assists from the universe. And, if you choose to invest your life, love, and time in a dog, you will find ways to make it work or to prevent it from not-working worse than it is. I found many parks, people, and stuff to do with Zen, and I will certainly find more [Figure 5].
You can too.
If your boss, friend, random stranger, or general human is judging you for what and how you do your things, I hope you know you're not alone. If you are doing the best you can, as many of us are, then good. Your integrity is worth far more than anyone's petty projection of their own unworthiness. Go out, and do what you do. Just because it's been done before, and the spectrum of variety in outcomes is a daunting reality, doesn't make it any less important to the universe, or much more importantly, to you.
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