Imagine yourself, sitting down for dinner with your family in a peaceful Rochester suburb, when you hear a knock. You reluctantly get up and answer the door, to see your neighbor, a short, smiley, frizzy haired 12 year old girl. After exchanging greetings, she says, “Can I walk your dog for you?”. This dog crazy girl was me, almost 10 years ago. I remember being so desperate to be around a dog that I used to knock on my neighbors doors and ask them if I could walk their dogs. Our neighbors were thrilled to have a free dog walker!
For as long as I can remember I have been obsessed with dogs. My parents weren’t huge dog people, so my begging got me as far as a goldfish, a hamster, and some bunnies. As I grew up, my parents always said, “when you get your own place you can get yourself a dog”. When I went to college, my dream of a four legged companion did not go away in the slightest. In Wheaton there was a place called “the Puppy Store” (aka heaven). You walked into the store and there are literally tons of puppies that you could play with in a little boxed off part of the room. When Alex and I were dating this was one of our favorite date spots. We even got on a first name basis with some of the employees.
Fast forward to this past October, Alex and I were engaged, he had moved into an apartment, and our mutual desire for a puppy became real. We had decided that a Pembroke Welsh Corgi was the right breed for us. I began calling breeders in Illinois and we had developed a relationship with one couple in particular and traveled to Western Illinois to be interviewed as potential corgi parents. We passed the test and many months and visits later, we were driving home with our first Corgi puppy, Oliver.
Owning a dog has been one of the most rewarding and joy filled experiences of my life. But what I didn’t expect from owning Ollie, was that he would teach me just as much as I thought I was teaching him, if not more. Here are the five most significant things that Oliver has taught me over the past few months.
I anticipated that having a puppy would challenge my patience. Cleaning up around a hundred potty accidents over the months gets pretty old pretty quick. But what I learned was that when my patience ran out, it was more of a reflection of a flaw with myself than with my dog. Ollie was not purposefully trying to frustrate me. He simply had not grasped the concept that it wasn’t okay to go to the bathroom inside. The moments when I would be frustrated cleaning up Ollie’s accidents were more due to my inability to be patient with my dogs learning process than an accurate reflection of my dogs desire to please me. I then identified that my level of patience should be more dependent on my dogs’ intent than his actions. I would rather focus on my dogs’ thinking process that foreshadowed his actions, than focus on his actions without identifying his thought process. I think that this system can be applied to other areas of life also. For example, if someone does something that bothers you but clearly didn’t intend to bother you, shouldn’t your response to them be different than if they had purposefully tried to bother you? Now i’m not saying that actions shouldn’t be disciplined, but i’m saying that the thought behind the actions should be just as important as the actual action.
When Alex and I were in pre-marital counseling, our counselor had at one point talked about the value of identifying and developing mutual hobbies together. I think that Alex and I never saw raising a dog as a “hobby” necessarily, but now taking care of, training, and being with Ollie is one of our favorite mutual hobbies. There have been so many moments where Ollie has had us both laughing till we were crying. I truly think that having Ollie has made Alex and I grow closer together than if we didn’t have a dog. Owning a dog together has been a blast!
Alex and I took Ollie to puppy classes at a local center here in Rockford for eight weeks. There were anywhere from five to ten puppies all learning different tasks and going through different obstacles. Many of these obstacles where various agility course objects such as tunnels, weaves, jumps, dog walks etc. Over our eight weeks with Ollie, he could not get enough of the agility equipment. He absolutely loved every single obstacle. From seeing how much Ollie loved doing agility, Alex and I decided to continue to train him to do agility work. Agility only works with the dog and one owner as the handler, so I decided to be Ollie’s agility handler and I cannot tell you how fun it is to run through an obstacle course with your dog. Working as unit to go through a course is an absolute blast and an amazing way to bond with your dog. I never would have thought that I would enjoy being an agility handler, but it is definitely one of my new favorite things!
Over the past few months I have been applying to Physical Therapy schools all over the country. The odds of getting into physical therapy school right now is less than 10% per school. The shift in medicine to being more preventative and restorative has caused PT to be a more highlighted part of the healing process. Because of this, schools are getting more and more competitive due to the hundreds of applicants each school gets for about 30-50 spots. So, understanding this, I have been receiving rejection letters from schools. This past week when I opened a rejection letter I sat there for a bit, a little sad, and Ollie came up to me and started to lick my cheek. I truly think that he was trying to tell me that everything will be okay. After that moment I started to think about how regardless of what happens, I have so much joy in my life already as a wife and corgi mama. Even though I would love to get into PT school, I know that my happiness does not depend on getting into PT school.
This past summer I was reading the book “How to be your dog’s best friend” by the Monks of New Skete. It was a fantastic book, one of my favorite points the monks made was that dogs are one of the best earthy examples of how to love unconditionally. You can literally be in any sort of mood, but does your dog ever treat you with anything less that love and joy? I think that dogs really are one of the best examples of how to treat one another. The fact that a dog can always act in a demeanor of love, is truly a challenge to me.
Overall, the experience of owning, raising and training a puppy has been nothing short of wonderful. Even as i’ve been writing this, I’ve had to stop multiple times to throw a toy, play a quick game of tug a war and laugh at how Ollie isn’t tall enough to get the toys in the bottom of his toy bin. Honestly, I love my life. I love my husband and I love having a dog together. We have Ollie to thank for many belly laughs, lessons learned, frustrations stifled, and great adventures.