From day 1, I was an animal lover. My family didn’t have dogs when I was growing up, but playing with stuffed animals was my go-to past-time. Every holiday season, my parents would take my brother and I to FAO Schwarz to play, so they could get an idea of what we wanted for Christmas. When I was 3 years old, I remember seeing a black and white stuffed animal dog in the window and falling instantly in love with it. Although I was too shy to tell them I wanted it, my mom says I was not very subtle. I, however, thought I was very subtle, so you can imagine my surprise when that exact black and white stuffed animal dog showed up on Christmas morning!
That goofy look on my face is known to this day as my “black and white doggy face”—a smile so beaming and joyful that it only appears when I see cute dogs and cute boys.
After getting my black and white doggy, I hoped the next thing we would get would be an actual black and white dog. Unfortunately, my parents didn’t think we were dog people, so I stuck to my stuffed animals and horseback riding.
In high school I started to have a bit of a rough time. Still shy, I struggled to make friends and felt very alone and like I didn’t fit in at all. Day after day, I would go to school nervous and leave feeling even worse. I knew there was only one thing that would make me feel better—someone who understood me—and I thought the only thing who could would be a dog. This time, unlike with the stuffed black and white dog, I threw my shy ways to the side and I tried to change my parents’ minds. Unfortunately, even with pleading, they did not give in. They said we still weren’t dog people.
However, one fateful winter night, a stray dog wandered into our garage. With frigid temperatures, I knew it was way too cold to leave him outside so I told my parents we had to let him stay with us. They surprisingly gave in to my request, and next thing I knew, we were hopping in the car to buy dog food. That night, we walked the pup and played with him at home. His silly antics worked magic on my parents. They quickly saw my joy and realized that having a dog might not be so bad after all.
The stray dog turned out to be a pup separated from one of our neighbors so we didn’t get to keep him, but the happiness he brought into the house that night had done the trick. We immediately began looking online at adoptable dogs.
After only a few days’ searching, we came across Denali, a beautiful copper woolly husky available for adoption. She wasn’t black and white, as I had always dreamed our dog would be, but as soon as we met her, I knew she was the one. Soft, and ever attentive, she was the dog and friend I had always dreamed of.
When we finally got to take her home, she fit in perfectly right from the start. It felt as though she had finally come home, rather than adjusting to a new one. Her arrival brought newfound joy and meaning to my life. She gave me confidence, partnership, and a sense of purpose at a time when I really needed it. She had such a gentle soul and made me feel understood in a way that humans never could. Her friendship really got me through high school. I can’t quite explain how, but it was as if she always knew how I was and what I needed. Hard days and lonely days were tolerable because of her, and the rest of the days were just that much brighter.
By senior year, she was undoubtedly my best friend and I even got my senior pictures with her to celebrate that fact (see above). After I graduated, I headed to Dartmouth College and was truly devastated to be leaving her. Tragically, only 2 weeks into my first term, she passed away of a very unusual and complicated health problem.
I was heartbroken, and still am, but I am so thankful for the time I had with her. She was my guardian angel, and I like to think she knew she had done everything she needed to to save me before leaving here.
Denali was a near impossible act to follow, but I am glad to say that my family did get another pup. My parents chose another husky—Stoli. She is black and white—just like my childhood dream. Stoli is the silliest pup ever and her antics never fail to make me smile. I don’t get to see her often but at least, now I know, my parents are without shame, dog people.
Of course, I knew I was a dog person from the very beginning—from that moment I saw the black and white stuffed animal dog at FAO Schwarz.
It’s hard to believe it but now, that shy little girl who just knew she had to have a dog - has carved out a place for herself in the very place she knew she always belonged—with dogs and dog lovers. It feels like a dream come true to finally wear my “black and white doggy smile” every day at a job that is all about sharing the joy of dogs as far as the internet can spread it. I can't wait to see where it takes me.