5 Ways Adopting My Dog Saved My Life More Than I Saved Hers

by Ashley Massis

A year and a half ago, I took a chance and moved from living in New York City and working in fashion to freelancing in Charlotte, North Carolina.

To be honest, I’m not even sure how I ended up here.

As a 20-something, I’ve always believed you have to have some trust in the universe and be willing and open to change.

I wasn’t happy in the city, so I decided to make a change.

Leaving New York was one of the biggest decisions of my life, and moving to the slow-paced city of Charlotte was something I struggled adjusting to.

After moving on a whim, I got caught up in working, drinking my face off and dancing the night away.

My life became a blur.

One day, I woke up and realized how much I hated my current job, was bored out of my mind with my life and, most of all, I was lonely. I didn’t need a man; I needed a copilot.

After randomly stepping into the Humane Society one day, I fell in love with one of the runts of the pack: an adorable, brown pipsqueak of a puppy with a white spot in the center of her head and ridiculously long ears.

Without even thinking, I swiped my credit card, took her home and realized I didn’t even have anything to keep her in while I went out and bought supplies.

I remember looking into those deep brown, trusting eyes, barricading her in one corner of my apartment with stacks of plastic tubs, talking out loud to her that I would be back after a trip to Target, and thinking, what have I gotten myself into?

No one is ever ready to adopt an animal. Animals, like humans, all have different personalities. Adopting an animal means you take on their previous baggage as much as they take on yours.

When I first adopted Zuzu, I thought I was giving an animal a better life.

Little did I know, she was doing the same for me.

Adopting A Dog Got Me Back Into The Outdoors

Once I adopted Zuzu, I started pursuing simple activities that involved her, such as going for walks, heading to one of the lakes or just having a BBQ outside with friends.

Instead of lying with a hangover on the couch on a Sunday, we go hiking, play fetch or I fall asleep on the hammock as she digs holes in the backyard.

Adopting A Dog Gave Me Roots

After moving from New York City, I spent time traveling up and down the East Coast like a wandering nomad.

I bartended late nights and ran away from true responsibility, as those having a quarter-life crisis tend to do. Although I enjoyed it, I craved roots.

After getting Zuzu, my life was consumed with wondering what she was doing, and thinking, “I better get home before she’s alone too long.” Having a living, innocent being relying on your attention, love and ability to eat and go to the bathroom waiting at home changed my priorities for the better.

No longer did my happy-hour nights turn into early mornings. Instead, I was too busy consumed with teaching my nugget how to sit.

Adopting a Dog Gave me Patience

With any young, living thing comes lessons. Adopting an 8-week-old puppy taught me a lot of patience.

When the garbage was tipped over, my underwear shredded or the expensive cork coasters were chewed up because she was anxious I was gone to long, I couldn’t see red or yell at her.

I learned to scold and teach. When teaching a new lesson or making boundaries, you can't become frustrated or angry. Owning a dog made me understand things can be replaced. She’s also adorable when being puppy-shamed.

Adopting A Dog Gave Me A Copilot

From driving to New York and back home, moving from my apartment to my house or even heading to the Blue Ridge Mountains, I have a copilot.

You learn to trust when you take them off the leash and they have to come back.

You celebrate their successes when they learn to sit or shake. You mindlessly talk to them when getting ready or thinking about your day.

Never underestimate the bond between human and canine. They become your family and offer you unconditional love.

Adopting A Dog Taught Me To Open My Heart Again

After the horrible year of 2013, when I dated a couple of assh*les and experienced the death of someone like a brother to me, my guard was up and my heart was closed.

I didn’t want to risk getting hurt again. Adopting Zuzu helped me open my heart again and showed me I could invest love into something that gave it back unconditionally.

She gave me the confidence to not have to worry about finding someone. Turns out, that confidence was just what I needed when I met the man I thought I was going to marry.

Although that ended up not working out, I still had my brown-eyed, four-legged girl licking my tears and begging me to play.

Adopting a dog was not only the best decision of my life, but also the one decision I am the most proud of.

No, it hasn’t been easy, but nothing that's worth it in life ever is.