I’ve had a soft spot for chocolate labs ever since my parents got me one for my fifteenth birthday — his name was Dexter.
He grew from a tiny puppy that I carried around in my arms to a giant 110 pound dog with these giant jowls that reminded me of the dog on “Turner and Hooch.” He slobbered like crazy, dug holes like there was no tomorrow, and barked endlessly for absolutely no reason. But, he wasn’t just a dog, he was my loyal friend as I learned to navigate life through those awkward teenage years and into my young adulthood.
My dog enriched my childhood and brought me joy in more ways than I would’ve ever imagined.
8 Ways My Childhood Dog Enriched My Life:
1. He taught me responsibility.
As anyone who’s ever had a puppy knows, those 4 am puppy wakeup calls are a little less than glamorous, but it helped me learn responsibility for something other than myself. Sure, there were some growing pains (like the time he chewed the siding off our house), but this was my dog, and I was bound and determined to take care of him as best I could.
2. He loved me.
When Dexter was a puppy, I treated him like a baby. I’d bathe him and wrap him in a towel, and we’d cuddle on the couch till we both fell asleep. He wasn’t exactly a lap dog once he got bigger, but he tried to be. He’d wait on me to come home from school and then he’d nearly knock me over trying to sit on my lap while I rubbed his ears. And, maybe it sounds silly, but it was nice to feel missed and loved, even though it was “just” my dog.
3. He gave me free therapy.
When the world felt heavy (as it so often does when you’re a teenager), I’d sit with Dexter on our back porch and talk to him about all my problems. He’d listen non-judgmentally, wagging his tail, and occasionally raising his ears and tilting his head to the side, which I think was his way of saying that he was listening and everything was going to be okay.
4. He protected me.
I always felt safer when I was with my dog. It’s not that he was a watchdog because I don’t think he would’ve hurt a fly, but just knowing he was nearby made me feel safe somehow. I always thought of him like Lassie – like if I ever got in trouble, he’d somehow sense it and come to my rescue.
5. He cleaned my plate.
Thanks to Dexter I always had a head start on cleaning up the dishes. He’d lick those plates so well that I could put them straight in the dishwasher. It was a win-win for both of us.
6. He welcomed me home from college.
When I left for college, I hated that Dexter didn’t understand where I’d gone, but he held no grudges and he’d nearly knock me over with excitement on the weekends that I came home.
7. He reminded me of my childhood.
Dexter lived long enough to move into the first home I bought after getting married. He even got to meet my firstborn son. By that point, he was gray around his eyes and stiff with arthritis. He still loved to dig and bark, but he tired easily. When he finally passed I felt like a part of my childhood died with him. It was one of the saddest days of my life. It’s been five years now that he’s been gone, and I still have his picture framed in our bedroom. I look at that picture and smile as I think of that slobbery beast of a dog and constant companion who loved me well through so many years. He was my best friend, and the best dog there ever was.