What looks like a panda, barks like a Beagle, and won’t walk in the rain?

Riley.

Riley is my new puppy. I’ve had him for about three weeks, but let me tell you, it feels more like three years. My boyfriend and I adopted him from a great local shelter, and we have been busy adjusting our lives ever since.

At nine weeks, Riley focuses on eating, drinking, playing, and sleeping—in that order. We, on the other hand, focus on teaching him his name and getting him to potty in the yard instead of the house. The first week was rough, but I think he’s getting the hang of things now. Patience and consistency are the keys.

As much as I’m trying to teach him, I have to admit, I’m learning ten times more. I read books and websites about the stages of puppyhood and various training techniques. I poll other dog-owners to find out what I’m doing right, what I’m doing wrong, and what I could be doing better. I get the scoop on vets and kennels, on dog food and toys. I live, breathe, and yes, sometimes even dream about Riley. Because he’s my responsibility, and my pleasure.

It’s not really about the dog information, though. What I’m actually learning is how to be a better person. By putting him first and taking all these steps to ensure his proper growth, I am growing too. I am maturing into a (more) responsible, mindful, and unselfish caretaker.

As an added bonus, my relationship is thriving. Before Andy and I got Riley, my cousin told me that adopting a dog was the best thing she and her husband had ever done. At the time I sort of chuckled and said “Sure” in a dubious tone, but now I understand. Since Riley came into our lives, Andy and I have been doing better than ever. We’re learning to work as a team toward a common goal, to depend on each other and do our fair share, and to appreciate each other to the fullest degree.

All of this basically translates to one simple thing: Riley rocks. Sure, he eats up all my time, and patience, and shoes… but he is so worth it! When I hold up a treat and say, “Riley, sit,” and he stares at me with those big brown eyes, I melt. I know he doesn’t get it, but that’s okay. I don’t get him either.

In time, though, we will understand each other, and that will be the real treat for both of us.


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