I’ve dreamed about having my own dog for two decades… and then I met Finn.
Growing up, I never had a dog that truly felt like it was my own. When I was five years old, we got our first family dog—a black Lab named Ruby. While Ruby technically belonged to all of us, she was my brother Elias’ dog from the beginning, since he was the oldest sibling. Any decision Ruby related needed Elias’ absolute approval. I hate saying this, but she probably even loved Elias the most too. They just bonded. My twin sister and I both felt left out – we wanted our own dog too!
A few years later, my parents came home with a chocolate Lab puppy named Matilda. I loved Matilda like she was my own daughter. But, let’s be honest, if she were my daughter, that would make my twin sister my wife! So yeah, the point is, all things Matilda also needed to be approved by my sister. Looking back, I now see that Ruby and Matilda were both just family dogs – they didn’t actually belong to either of us individually. Regardless, I loved them both dearly and they instilled my dog dreams, at a very young age, to be dog dad someday.
Matilda and Ruby were amazing family dogs and they taught me what a dog can bring to one’s life. They were loving, friendly, had a sense of humor, enjoyed swimming, pooped outside, came when they were called, snuggled you at bedtime, etc. But our family fed them table scraps every night, and they didn’t get very much exercise. To be frank, they both ended up becoming pretty chunky. And even though they didn’t have any problem behaviors, they only knew the sit command. I would often see other people's’ dogs and feel jealous of how well trained and obedient they were; how bonded and focused they were to their masters and how athletic some were. That’s when I started fantasizing about the day I would have my very own dog. In my dream, it was clear—my dog would be obedient, well trained, well socialized, eat right, be athletic, friendly to both dogs and humans, insanely cute, and we would be each other’s trusty companions. No more sharing with my big brother or twin sister – all mine.
I first met Finn in late May 2018, when I teamed up with my brother, Elias, to help him on the first-ever Dogist Rescue Ride. When Finn trotted through the apartment door, I quickly saw that he was a very special and unique dog – He was curious and affectionate, but not a pleaser. He had thinking eyes, and he was very much an individual. He was so cute it was impossible to not be obsessed, but I tried my best not to get too attached, since, at the time, Finn had already been spoken for by my aunt. However, soon after the Rescue Ride started, my aunt unexpectedly (and luckily) dropped out – the simple fact that keeping Finn was now a real possibility changed the rest of the trip for me entirely. I was no longer just Finn’s handler, I was now his potential dog-dad.
Traveling from state to state with Finn on the Rescue Ride offered me the perfect chance to get to know Finn’s personality, practice being a dog owner, and better understand what road tripping with a dog looks and feels like – which was important since I live on the road in a Sprinter van. With my aunt now out of the picture, I began to let my guard down, and in doing so, let Finn in.
Without even noticing it, I saw myself gradually becoming more and more invested in Finn – his training, behavior, well-being, etc. And at the same time, Finn became more and more bonded to me (of course).
Before long, it became clear that I was going to keep Finn. I didn’t need to say anything – the writing was on the wall. Finn was the dog I was waiting for – I was keeping him.
When the rescue ride ended, Elias and I were having dinner with our family and asked if I was going to create an Instagram account for Finn. I replied, “ehh, just tell them that your brother @thehendog is keeping him.” Everyone at the table looked at me like I was an idiot. Until that moment, I had not even considered creating an account for Finn. I had a day to decide, so did some thinking. I realized that because of my adventurous lifestyle (#vanlife), Finn would be living a very special and exciting life as well – certainly a life worth sharing. We created the account, aptly named @KeepingFinn and the announcement was made. Within 24 hours Finn had over 80k followers and my personal account had over 5k followers. Overnight, I was launched into the Instagram dog world – people were DMing me to “boop the snoot,” which I had to Google. I was excited, nervous, and looked forward to the challenge.
The best part of my Finn experience so far is the timing of it all. Finn entered my life at the perfect time. I had just traded my 9-5 job in NYC for an outdoorsy nomadic lifestyle in a Sprinter van, which meant I had the time, bandwidth, and desire to become a dog owner. Finn and I are together, in close quarters, 100% of the time. This time together is especially meaningful while he’s still a puppy who is growing and learning. I get to grow Finn into a dog that I am proud of – the dog I always wanted. I’m already proud of the young man he has become and can’t wait to see where he’ll be six months from now!