I had no idea that I was a dog person until graduate school. Growing up in cities in China, not only I had not had any pets, I hardly not even had the chance to pat a dog. A couple months into graduate school in California, a senior student in the same program, who later became my best friend, invited me and other new students to join him for a backpacking trip in the East Sierra. It was on THAT hike, I saw a family of five – a couple, two boys and a beautiful golden retriever. Everyone in the family had a backpack, even the youngest kid who looked like he was only four or five years old. Amazingly, the dog had a backpack too, carrying his own water and food. That was the first time I was close to an off-leash dog, and I was a bit nervous that he would come to me or bark at me. But he just took a look at me, and continued walking besides his humans. He looked so content and happiness was streaming out of his eyes.
That was a game changer for me. First, it changed how I thought of animals, or at least dogs. Without much experience, I always thought dogs were just a pets – they do not have much in themselves, just did everything human want them to do and had to always obey us. But that hiking dog looked so different. He was off-leash. he COULD HAVE gone anywhere he wanted. But he CHOSE to be in his little backpacks and he CHOSE to hike with his family. It was his decision and his life and he was such an individual. Second, I can feel the connection he had with his family. He looked up to their eyes every once a while, he followed their pace even he could have gone a lot faster, he walked besides the kids and sometimes behind his humans when the path was narrow, like there was a strong bond, an invisible leash between him and the family. And I wanted that. I was surprised to realize it, but I was excited to find out too. I wanted that, the dog, the little backpack, the outdoorsy family, the beautiful mountains and blue lakes. ALL OF IT.
It still took me six years after the hiking trip to get my first dog. Busy school, housing situation, relationship, etc. But finally in 2012, hubby and I are out of school, rented a house with a large, beautiful yard, and our landlord was totally open to new pets. Everything was finally lining up for us. We started to visit shelters and rescues, and the Labor day of 2012, we saw Roxie, our beautiful blue pit puppy, wagging her little tail a fast as she could behind the bars to us. She stole hubby’s heart IMMEDIATELY. That was truly love at the first sight between these two.
It was shocking how much a dog made us feel like a family. Pitbulls are bred to love humans. It is in their blood to guess what you want and try to please you. And Roxie tries especially hard because she was abused as a puppy and we are her first real family. She is also very, very expressive. Just like all the new parents, we took waaaay too many picture of her and she had her own photo diary.
About a year later, hubby and I got married – a perfect excuse to gift ourselves another dog. After a couple months’ searching, Charlie joined our family at the night of Halloween, 2013. He is such a goofy boy! Charlie is also a very different dog. His personality, his habits, his interaction with us, are very very different from Roxie but equally sweet. It surprised me again that how each dog is its own individual. And just like friends, you can never have too many of them!
Now when we go hiking, we have two over-excited and goofy dogs besides us – well – when they are on leashes at least. (They are not as well trained as the dog which opened my heart.) Roxie and Charlie want to explore waaaaaay ahead of us and keep running back and see why we are so slow. And you bet they will jump on anyone they see to lick their faces, including kids who are way smaller than them. So yeah, they are on leash and they are pulling. But hey, I am still living in my dream. There is nowhere I’d rather be than anywhere with my dogs!