Who saved whom?

Published 9:33 am Saturday, July 25, 2015

Nearly four years ago, I reached a crossroad in my life. A student at the school I always dreamed of attending, I had more friends than I could count and, for the first time in my life, I did what I pleased without my parents looking over my shoulder. I had everything that I thought I could ever want, and I appeared happier than I had ever been.

Like many typical college kids, though, I struggled with balancing my social life, grades and sleep schedule. I partied a little too much, slept through a few classes and wasn’t sure of the direction in which my life was headed. The same routine, day in and day out, and something needed to charge or I was going to regret it forever.

Andrew with his three-year-old Siberian Husky, Melo, at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront just weeks after they moved to the area. SUBMITTED | KAYLA RICE

Andrew with his three-year-old Siberian Husky, Melo, at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront just weeks after they moved to the area. SUBMITTED | KAYLA RICE

It was Friday, Nov. 11, 2011, that my life got back on track. I remember it like it was yesterday. I took the usual trek back toward my hometown, just about two hours north of Columbus, Ohio, and stopped in the city in which I was born. Awaiting me was an eight-week-old, nine-pound bundle of fur that would instantly become my best friend, and it was in the moment that I first held him and looked into his eyes, one blue and one brown, that I knew I needed him right then more than he’d ever need me.

In the year prior, I had gone through a few brief relationships, lost a few friends, struggled with a few classes and grew apart from a few family members. At first, it seemed like he could be a replacement for each. But he didn’t fill some empty place that I thought I had in my heart; he made my heart grow.

I’ll admit that Melo, named after my favorite basketball player, came into my life as an impulse decision. I had done little to no prior research, so it’s my fault that I have to live with a lint roller in my pocket at all times. My friends and parents alike were skeptical, considering my then-current state of affairs, but they supported me nonetheless.

There wasn’t really room for him in my three-bedroom apartment, especially for the hyper breed he is, nor was there room for him in wallet, but I knew that I had to make it work. Even today, there’s not enough room in my schedule to take him on walks as much as I’d like or give him the necessary number of belly rubs he deserves. But in spite of that, I try my best to give him all of my love. I mean, that’s all he’s ever done for me.

There are so many benefits of living with a dog, as it’s been linked to having an increased life expectancy; stronger physical, mental and emotional health; better social skills; fewer allergies; and overall happiness, to name a few. But the reasons I needed Melo most were the same reasons that I sometimes, now regrettably, wished that I never got him in the first place.

There were many moments during the first year or two that I absolutely adored him, but there were more that would test my patience. My socks would go missing or I’d find puddles of pee in the hallway. I’d be called home from work or class because he was whining, or show up late because he decided that tearing apart the toilet paper would be fun.

He’d have an urgent problem that needed to be taken care of at 4:30 in the morning, and I’d have to try to make it down three flights of stairs before he let it fly.

Admittedly, I wasn’t ready for Melo to shake up my life the way he did. The fact that something could depend on me for everything and anything he needed taught me so much more than any lesson I learned from my parents or in school. Owning a dog has made me less angry, and more patient, compassionate and understanding. Everything I do now comes second to his needs, and I’m no longer allowed to be the selfish, irresponsible person I was before I found dog hair scattered across my life.

I still have times that I get frustrated with him, like when I come home and the stuffing from his giraffe or pieces of a DVD case are all over the place. But then I see the smile on his face when I walk into the room and I can’t be mad.

I graduated from Ohio State last spring, and honored Melo with a token of my appreciation on my graduation cap. Without him, I wouldn’t have received my diploma. I can’t explain the joy that it brings to my life when I think about how I raised him and how I got to witness him grow into a big, strong, loving, playful, patient, caring, forgiving and understanding animal.

If he could talk, I’m sure he’d say the same thing about me. And when we’re playing together or being lazy and just hanging out on the couch, it’s clear to see that we were exactly what the other needed.

Andrew Lind is a staff writer at The Tidewater News. He can be reached at 562-3187 or andrew.lind@tidewaternews.com.