I have always been a dog person and grew up owning several mixed-breed dogs through the years. But in the Fall of 2012, I found my puppy soulmate. It was shortly after Hurricane Sandy. The power was out for 11 days where I lived in New York, and I was anxious to get out of the house. I found myself playing with this sweet little 5-month-old husky at a pet store in the only strip mall that had power for miles. I knew after she placed herself in my lap and promptly started nibbling on my curls that she was meant to be mine.
Once power was restored, the first thing I did was bring her home. I named her Dakota. She instantly brought such joy into my life. I knew I needed her just as much as she needed a caring owner. Our friendship happened instantly, but I had no idea she'd grow into the life companion I didn't know I was missing.
I've been Dakota's mom for a little more than six years now, and while I try to stick to a routine, it's not always that easy with my career. But no matter what, she's constantly at my side. I can always find comfort in my girl, either through her snuggles, going for walks, her happy little face whenever I pick up a toy for playtime, and the way her tail wags when I hand her a Milk-Bone® biscuit — one of her favorite treats. She's been there for me through so many life changes, too, including my hardest one to date: losing the type of love I had waited for my entire life.
It was a cold, rainy December night. I had just watched the love of my life walk out of my house for what would be the last time. Devastated, crying, and bleary-eyed, I made my way up to the bedroom followed quickly by the sound of not-so-little paws.
As I laid down sobbing uncontrollably, Dakota made her way under my arm, kissed my face, and snuggled in close to me. We fell asleep like that for hours — almost a whole day, honestly — and my little lady never moved from my side.
In the coming months, things didn’t get easier for me. I had to deal with all of the collateral damage of the breakup — telling my friends, trying to understand what happened — and I wasn’t doing it well, that’s for sure. But in those tough months, my dog became my hero. I have always loved my dog to pieces, but I had no idea how invaluable she’d be after my breakup. Now I’m certain: she is one of the best things that ever happened to me.
No matter how sad I was during the day, the minute I walked in the door, she would gently jump up on my shoulders and lick my whole face, which would make me smile and laugh and forget that my heart was hurting so badly.
Usually pretty high-maintenance and high-energy, my girl helped me out by becoming the easiest dog ever. Instead of bringing me toys so we could play, she would lay down next to me on the couch like she just knew something wasn’t right with me. She would rarely leave my side the entire time I was home.
If I was sad and let a few tears stream down my face, she was quick to hop up on the couch and lick my tears away, making me smile, of course. She could somehow understand that I was feeling too sad to focus, and she would plop her leash in my lap, forcing me to get up and out, which was wonderful. Our neighbors love her and the interaction was good for both of us.
She also made sure I never went to bed lonely. My Dakota Mac, never really the snuggly type, made sure to lie down next to me every night with some part of her body touching me, just to make sure I knew she was there for me.
And, one very bad night, she was the one to snap me out of my funk.
It was Valentine’s Day, and I should have been out with the new man I was seeing, but by the middle of the afternoon, I was in a serious spiral. I canceled my plans and decided to go to a Spin class, which usually puts my head in a better place. I was wrong.
When I got home, I stepped into the shower and it was like everything came to a head. Tears started streaming down my face. I left the shower, still crying and both emotionally and physically exhausted, only to make it no further than the couch, where I eventually fell asleep.
I woke up to find that my sweet girl was sleeping on the floor next to the couch, just below me. She immediately got excited and started licking my face and running to the stairs, letting out little howls along the way, like she was telling me it was bedtime and she didn’t want to go without me.
I remember reading a quote once that said, “He might only be part of your life, but for your dog, you are his whole life.” This popped into my head as I walked up the stairs that night. I vowed to snap out of my sadness and treat my girl like the hero she was, starting the moment I woke up.
It hit me that I needed to be strong because, just like I needed Dakota, she needed her mom. She had done so much to help me through the last few months. She spent so much energy trying to make me happy and comfort me through what was an absolutely lonely and terrible time for me. Her presence alone brought the spark back into my life again.
We got back into our routine of walks, playtime, car rides, snuggles, and special treats, like her absolute favorite original Milk-Bone® biscuits (She gets the large ones since she’s a pretty big girl!). And within days, I was already feeling better. Seeing this, she was noticeably happier, too.
I may not have had the human version of the love of my life anymore, but the dog version was right beside me the whole time. Sometimes, all you need is a best friend to get you by, and my sweet girl was definitely mine.