It was the winter of my junior year of high school. I had just been cast in the spring play, and I was also preparing for the State series for the Speech and Acting Team, as well as vying to become a Captain of the team for the upcoming school year. I had a research paper due for my honors English class, and I still managed to work twelve hours a week at my local library.
On a frosty February afternoon, the first day in months that I came home from school before sunset, I was wondering how I would juggle all my activities when I saw my Mother standing in the foyer with a Butternut Squash in her hands. It looked strange; it was furry, it moved, and, when it saw me come in, it peed on the tile floor.
This was how I met Kirby.
The last time I begged my parents for a puppy was when I was seven. Now, I was seventeen, and my Mother’s birthday present to my Brother and I was a cream colored Schnoodle—half Schnauzer, half Poodle, and completely hypoallergenic to adhere to my Mother’s needs.
Kirby was supposed to be a standard sized dog, but as he grew we discovered that he was a miniature. My Brother, who never wanted a dog, and especially not a small one, refused to take care of Kirby. My Mother, discovering that dogs barked and had to be housebroken, abandoned caring for him as well. I was too busy with school and work to make any real impact on the dog’s upbringing, and so it was my Dad who ended up caring for the Schnoodle.
Even though he worked from home, my Dad had to fly out of town often. It was on these days when I took care of Kirby, since my Mother and Brother refused to deal with him. I would walk him along the snowy streets of my suburban neighborhood, holding him back as he yapped at other dogs, moving in as if he were ready to kill, but really just longing to play with another of the same species.
I was very harsh when training Kirby. When he peed on my bed, I would chase him with a squirt bottle filled with lemon juice. When he ripped up toilet paper, I would put him in his crate and endure his whining for hours. “The Everything Puppy Book” said these actions were all right, but I couldn’t help but think that Kirby’s treatment was awful. We were terrible owners.
I began to regret my Mother’s decision to get a dog when, on a gloomy day in March, Kirby padded into my bedroom. He leaned his body against me, rested his head on my lap, and looked to me with his dark brown eyes.
This was unconditional love.
At that moment, I learned to love my dog. My general dislike for the mutt melted into affection, and I urged my Brother and Mother to put more effort into raising the pup. With my encouragement he burrowed a place into the hearts of each member of my family. Kirby became my roommate when his crate was moved out of the kitchen and into my bedroom. He has his own place at the dinner table. He gets taken to the dog park every Sunday for a proper playtime. He eats the best dog food money can buy.
Now, I could never view Kirby as a possession; he’s family. Kirby displays love that requires nothing in return, and I believe that this is something that humanity can learn from. To hate is simple, but to love one another is a challenge. It sounds unbelievable, but from witnessing a dog’s unfailing affection, I decided that I wanted to become a better person. I try to be less quick to judge others, and to love someone despite their faults. I try to encourage others to do the same, and I long to make a positive difference in the world. I never thought that a dog could change my outlook on life, but sometimes it takes a puppy whining at four in the morning to make that wake up call.