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10 Signs That Show You Live With -- and Love -- a Dog

Living with dogs has changed my life -- here are 10 things that mark me as a dog lover.

 |  Aug 20th 2014  |   3 Contributions

I’ve lived with dogs for only a year and a half, so all this dog stuff still feels fairly new to me. I still marvel over the ways that my life has changed since welcoming dogs into my home. I count myself among dog lovers.

I was a cat person first, and my love of cats eventually led to my love of dogs via volunteering at a shelter and regularly visiting the dog kennels. My teenag daughter really wanted a dog. 

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Me with May Belle, my first dog (photo by Zinnia Willingham)

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Visiting dogs like this kind of broke my heart and made me want to open my home to a dog (photo by Kezia Willingham)

Finally one day we adopted May Belle, an anxious Rat Terrier/Chihuahua eight-week-old puppy. My daughter and I really wanted a Pit Bull mix but my then-husband disliked them. In a compromise, she and I were open to a Chihuahua since that was one of the few breeds he liked.

May Belle was a tiny bundle of nerves who I could not let go once I held her in my arms.

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May Belle a few months after we brought her home (photo by Kezia Willingham)

About nine months after we brought May Belle home, we fostered two Chihuahuas, Ruby and and Daisy, a Dachshund/Chihuahua mix. They were also highly nervous and it was clear that Daisy had been abused. She didn’t know how to poop properly, walk on a leash, and would wince every time you bent over to touch her or pick her up. We ended up adopting them since they got along with May Belle. Nor did I have the heart to return them to the shelter.

After this we stopped fostering, because we kept getting too attached to the animals we brought home.

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My kids and I promptly named our first dog foster Daisy and Ruby (photo by Kezia Willingham)

A few months later we read online about a litter of pups roaming a reservation in Central Washington whose owner started shooting them one night. A few pups survived and were rescued by Yakima Valley Pet Rescue before being transferred to Western Washington’s Homeward Pet Adoption Center in Woodinville, not far from Seattle.

We went to meet them and ended up adopting Lilly, a mixed breed whose adoption papers say she is a terrier retriever. She is gorgeous and goofy and loves people. Unlike the Chihuahuas, she is not antisocial. She will let people pet her in public. In fact, we figure she would probably invite everyone over for coffee if she could. Yet if she hears a strange sound in the house, she is quick to announce it with a loud, sharp bark, so she is a guard dog too!

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Our "big" dog, Lilly (photo by Kezia Willingham)

One of the things I like best about dogs, as opposed to cats, is walking them. Having one pretty much forces you to get out of your house at least once a day (besides the obligatory job, school, or grocery store). This is good for my health as well as theirs.

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May Belle walking amidst fall leaves (photo by Kezia Willingham)

I like walking our dogs so much that I think of dog walks as one of my favorite things now. These walks help me keep things in perspective, encourage me get to know my neighborhood better, and give me time to process my thoughts.

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One of the best things about dog walks is appreciating the natural beauty you encounter outside (photo by Kezia Willingham)

Because I am a fairly recent dog convert, I often reflect upon the ways my life has changed since I started living with dogs, about the particular doggie experiences you have when you love a dog: picking up their poop, being highly aware of your surroundings, paying more attention to bones than you ever imagined you would, and which streets feel friendlier than others when it comes to deciding which route to walk.

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My kids, Justin and Zinnia, with Lilly at the park (photo by Kezia Willingham)

One day while walking my pups, I came up with 10 indicators that reflect the reality of those who live with and love canines.

1. You always have a plastic bag in your pocket

In fact, plastic bags become as highly coveted as a nice big bag of coffee beans in the freezer. You don’t ever want to go without them. Empty bread and produce bags become highly valued. You never throw them away until they’ve been reused as poop bags.

Then there are the fancy plastic bags you buy and carry in a little container on the leash. I seem to always have extras stuffed in the pockets of my jeans or sweatshirts. It’s not uncommon for me to do the laundry and find an unused bag or two in the washer when I go to switch the load.

2. You're familiar with all the dogs in your neighborhood

You know where the small, yappy ones live, the ferocious large ones, and which homes let their dog off leash to wander the area. Some dogs stealthily watch you coming then suddenly bark savagely the moment you cross their path and scare the crap out of you.

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Justin and Zinnia at another dog park with three of our dogs (photo by Kezia Willingham)

3. It really irritates you when people let their dogs off leash in public

With the exception of dog parks, most cities require you to keep your dogs on leash for their safety, for yours, and for the well-being of the general population. There is a reason for these laws and they wouldn’t exist if they didn’t need to. When you faithfully leash your dog every time you exit the house, it bothers you when other people don’t. Especially when unleashed dogs approach your fearful, anxiety-ridden ones.

4. You worry about being gone from home for too long

You know your dogs love to see you and miss you tons when you are gone. You feel guilty if you have to do something after work that makes your return home even later. If you are like me, you prefer to spend more time at home than you did more because there are beings there who really appreciate their time with you.

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Me with Lilly at the dog park (photo by Zinnia Willingham)

5. You know which pet stores have the lowest prices for certain products

You’ve been to them all and have done the math. Dog food is cheaper at X, poop bags are cheaper at Y, and leashes are not only less expensive at the shelter but the money also goes right back to the animals.

6. Dog hair? Don’t care!

You’ve gotten over your aversion to dog hair. There is a fine layer of it on the dashboard of your vehicle. You find it in your hair, in your mouth, and sometimes in your food. But YOLO. Part of loving dogs is living with dog hair.

7. You are familiar with the closest dog park

I live in Seattle and there are a number of dog parks to choose from. However, the one I visit most is the one closest to home. We walk there at least twice a week, sometimes more. We are starting to get to know the other regulars and enjoying the sense of community.

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Lilly & Justin at the dog park (photo by Kezia Willingham)

8. You worry a little less about having your house targeted for a break-in

With a pack of dogs inside barking at every odd sound, you figure, given a choice, the burglar will probably select another house to rob.

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Who would mess with these dogs? (photo by Kezia Willingham)

9. You pay more attention to strays

In fact, you don’t just pay attention to them, but you actively help them get back home.

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The first stray we ever encountered was in Yakima, Washington (photo by Kezia Willingham)

10. You feel truly loved

There is a certain kind of love dogs give if you treat them well. It is clear that they are always much happier when you are home. In fact, your presence is generally enough to help them feel content with life.

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Daisy's smiles are the best! (photo by Kezia Willingham)

Now that I know what it’s like to love a dog, I am grateful that my family shares our lives with them. And for all the quirky things that come with loving dogs!

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About the Author: Kezia Willingham is a breadwinning laundry queen who lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. She is a regular contributor to Catster and Dogster. Her writing has appeared in xoJane, the Seattle Times, and the New York Times. She has an essay in an upcoming anthology, Blended: Writers on the Step Family Experienceedited by Samantha Waltz, to be released by Seal Press in 2015. Follow her on Twitter.


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