Adulthood in Canine Form

005At the age of thirty-one, I suppose I have to submit to full-on adulthood. It feels strange. For most of my life up till now, I always felt a part of a youthful generation. Everyone reaffirmed this to me countless times. Ever since I’ve turned thirty, though, something has changed. I rarely get ID’d anymore. People have stopped acting like certain references are before my time. I am pretty sure I heard one of my favourite bands referred to as “classic rock” just the other day.

Yep. I am officially not young.

My teen years may as well be ancient history. My twenties are a humourous part of my past. My thirties are laid out before me like uncharted territory and I – almost – get excited thinking about what is yet to come.

It took a lot of time to get to this point. Even a year ago I never truly felt like an adult. It seemed more like playacting at times, like dressing up in my mother’s clothes. Now that I am here the too-big heels are more comfortable than expected. Ill-fitting at times, but I am getting used to them. Blisters add character anyway, right?

When I think back on it all, it’s not hard to determine when these feelings of acceptance set in. I’ve always been seen as “responsible”, “practical”, and “mature”. I just never really felt all that accountable for my actions until I had someone relying on me. That is, until I had a dog.

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Nothing forces a person to think beyond themselves more than having another living being depend on them for everything. No longer could I carelessly wander off to the bar after work or sleep in until noon on a Saturday. Granted, I didn’t do much of either before Shiva, but I noticed when these freedoms were removed. All of a sudden, I had to plan out my day, follow a schedule, and stick to my promises. It didn’t come without resentment.

I wish I could say that I took to dog ownership naturally and that I happily took to my new job without looking back. However, like any large change, it wasn’t so easy. There was definitely a wide period of adjustment for me. I remember moaning one afternoon about six months in, after an exhausting day at the office, “is this my life now? Is walking the dog all I am ever going to do again?”

The answer is yes, pretty much. My social life, never very large to begin with, has disappeared outside of dog-related activities. I spend the majority of my free time during the week either walking or playing with Shiva. Most of my thoughts are about her comfort. All of what little extra money I make goes towards providing for her needs. None of these things are at all what I had in mind when I said I wanted a dog. I expected a canine companion to add to my life, not take it over.

And yet, four years later, all of my resentment has dissipated. I don’t care if all I ever do again is take Shiva for a walk. In fact, it is my fervent prayer that I will have the honour of doing so every day for the rest of my life. If only it could be so. Have I been brainwashed by a pair of big brown eyes and a wet tongue?  Maybe. Or maybe I’ve grown up.

Age and experience has taught me that being an adult doesn’t mean I can’t have fun or do the things I’ve always enjoyed. It doesn’t mean I have to stop playing video games or watching animated films. It’s much more insidious than that. Adulthood in it’s proper form does mean responsibility and all of those other awful-sounding words; however, once one gets there, she finds it isn’t nearly so dreary as it once sounded. In a way, because I was perhaps mature beyond my age as a child, I think I might have stagnated. At eight I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. At seventeen, I acted much more like someone ten years older, prepared for the consequences of every small action. For a number of reasons, I think I hit a limit around age twenty and could not advance myself any further. This may be why I felt so young, so behind. Everyone else was moving on, making big decisions, and I was still contemplating whether or not skipping class would have dire consequences down the road.

Shiva’s presence has nudged me forward, kind of thrust adulthood upon me whether I wanted it or not. I find myself acknowledging things now that I denied before. I no longer make decisions on a whim or expect things to just happen for me. I now know I am the only one in charge. If I want something, I need to seek it out. If I screw up, no one is going to come along and fix it. It’s all on me now. This is a feeling both burdensome and liberating.

026Shiva’s “Gotcha Day” was last week, April 15th. It means she is now around five years old. The magic number. People used to tell me during that first year “just wait till she gets older, probably around five, she’ll calm down.” They were wrong and right. Wrong in that Shiva is not a “calm” dog. I don’t think that is her personality. Everything she does, she gives her all – whether it be running at the park, jumping over an obstacle, or napping on the couch. It’s not in her to be a calm dog. Nonetheless, she has grown up. There is a maturity in her actions that shows in her decision-making. She now knows there are consequences for her choices and more often then not these days, she chooses the smarter path. When she chooses wrong, instead of reacting, she looks to me for advice. Shiva now knows how to ask for help.

That is one part of adulthood she has over me.

I like to think we are growing up together. Bumbling along, making mistakes, figuring things out, and sometimes feeling completely at a loss. I try to carry myself as a leader for her but in so many ways she is my teacher. Thus, I am also going to work hard to be the best student I can be.

23 thoughts on “Adulthood in Canine Form

  1. You’ve got it. It’s really about learning and growing. If you were still acting and thinking today the exact same as you were when you were 20, then you wouldn’t have gained much from your time here. Take it from someone with a couple decades on you! Every age has it’s challenges and blessings, and we go through that, learn a few lessons and more on. Sharing the experience with a dog or two along the way…well, that’s the cherry on top.

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  2. You always have the most thoughtful, well-written posts. Getting my own dog as an adult really did mark a time when I realized I was becoming more of an adult. And we were just talking to someone else about the ‘magic mellow age’, and we just posted about it today too!

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  3. I couldn’t say it any better than Peggy, so I’ll just add this: only months away from my 60th birthday, I’m STILL learning how to ask for help. I was a “sheltered” child/teenager/twenty-something, so when I finally moved out, I wanted to do things myself, not have them done for me. Up to the day he started succumbing to the cancer that took him from me, my Dad treated me like a little girl even though I was 50+ years old and had a stepson with a college degree. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I started asking for help when I needed it. My 2 Golden girls keep me busy day to day, but their ability to live in the moment inspires me constantly. Ducky is still learning to live in and for each moment, so we’re teaching each other. Just like you & Shiva.

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  4. One of my first memories of life was getting a dog of my own. I’ve never had more than a short time without a dog, so it is impossible to think of my life without one. I loved this post and the different perspective you have in getting your first dog later in life.

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  5. I so feel this. I’m just a smidge older than you (32 next month), and didn’t get my first dog until right after I turned 30. Which was also right after all of my carefully prepared for career aspirations hit the toilet. It’s been an interesting few years.

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  6. I think you do too much thinking:) Seriously you and Shiva are family. You look to her and she to you.

    Enjoy every minute with Shiva, as the time we have is never long enough. Also enjoy your life, this isn’t a rehearsal.

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  7. I know exactly what you mean! I’m 31 too and finally feel a bit more settled and matured. I think my dogs too are vital to feeling content and enjoying the little things like our daily hikes and picking out a new toy for them:) I’ve also been thinking about our crazy early days and they still tear around like maniacs on our hikes but I don’t worry that they’ll get into trouble along the way. It’s perfect!

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  8. I’m getting there…and dread the day that people stop acting like certain references were “before my time!” 🙂 I’ll be 27 in June, so I still have a few more years to go, thankfully.

    I remember when we first got Chloe. She was about a year old when we got her. Everyone told us: “just wait til she’s 2, she’ll be good then.” HA! She didn’t calm down until she was about 7…so I figure 4 year-old Riley has another 3 years to go, at least, until she calms down!

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  9. You’re so right…caring for a dog does require comittment and sometime self-denial, but the things I may have denied myself in no way are equal to the joy I have every day from my partnership with my dogs

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  10. As someone in her early 40’s – I have to say your post put me to shame. I didn’t start to “grow up” I think until I reached my later 30’s. But I guess we all mature at different speeds, otherwise, where’s the fun in everyone being the same? 🙂

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  11. What a thought provoking post. When we adopted our first dog, Harley, he had terrible separation anxiety, and at times it was hard to live with a dog like him. Really hard. But oh how I missed him when he left, and would have happily dealt with years more of his difficult behavior if only it would bring him back.

    As far as Shiva being your teacher, I fully believe that each and every one of them comes into our lives to teach us something, if only we open our hearts…

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  12. Each new phasing of aging (I have found) is mitigated by the blessings it brings – and you are so right, nothing changes your perspective so much as having someone depend on you.
    I was “carded”, jokingly, this winter when I went to buy an air soft rifle for my son’s Christmas present. The gentleman behind the counter waited good-naturedly while I dug through my wallet for my driver’s license – it was my favorite Christmas present!

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  13. I feel like I could have written this. Well, it probably wouldn’t have been as well-worded as yours is, but the same feelings and thoughts have definitely been on my mind lately.

    The statement “I’ve always been seen as “responsible”, “practical”, and “mature”. I just never really felt all that accountable for my actions until I had someone relying on me.” totally resonated with me.

    Now you know why you were missed. Your words have a way of bringing out the feelings and thoughts in others. Many times they are the ones we are afraid to express. You offer the safe place for all of us to share.

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  14. I can relate to your wonderful post 100%!!! When I became a dog parent, it was the swift kick in the butt I needed to thrust myself into adulthood! I could no longer be intimidated by the responsibilities that comes with adulthood because they just need to be done in order to give Taylor a quality life…no more excuses!

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  15. When in doubt, you can always act childish with those awesome bootie slippers I see in that first picture! Those are def something your little sister would wear.

    I’m still so scared of ‘growing up’ and of ‘change’ and of ‘responsibility’. I still can’t keep plants alive. I still can’t keep a fish alive for longer than a few months… so I can’t move on to hamsters, and definitely can’t be burdened with a dog or a cat.

    I look at people my age who are MARRIED with CHILDREN and it just seems like too much. I feel WAY too young and irresponsible for that. Considering I don’t eat proper meals every day, how am I supposed to make sure another being or creature does?

    I’m just hoping that me living on my own for the first time ever, helps me learn more responsibility and helps me grow. 🙂

    You’ll always be the responsible, mature one in my eyes Kris. I’ve always depended on you for that. Ha ha.

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  16. I am 37. My older brother just turned 40. I have no problems with my age, but most days, I’m really not certain how we got here. I feel like my brother should have just turned 30, and I should be 27.
    With our Aussie, we got all sorts of people telling us to “just wait until he’s 5” as well. I can tell you quite simply that age does not calm down dogs who are naturally not calm. At age 9, almost 10, he was finally starting to slow down a little, but that was mostly because my MIL was living with us, and he was getting fat from the food she dropped. I say, enjoy the crazy. Enjoy the energy. Hope she’s crazy until her final day, even if it’s a more mature crazy. Because a non-crazy Shiva just wouldn’t be Shiva.

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