The best thing I’ve done in my twenties is get a dog

Get a dog

By Tara Cavanaugh

There’s tons of good reasons to get a dog. Dogs are amusing. They help relieve stress. They provide companionship and affection.

But there’s a particular benefit of owning a dog in your late twenties: They chill you the fuck out.

The 25-30 age range is that post-college phase where adulthood really begins, and it comes with all kinds of demands: Find a job in a sluggish economy. Find a place to live that you can actually afford. Start paying back those student loans, which are suddenly really real– and really big.

It’s a tad bewildering. And all the accompanying little stresses of day-to-day life can swirl themselves into terrible tornadoes in your head.

Got a heinous dental bill in the mail? Then you don’t know how to pay it back then you might have to charge it then you’re going to end up homeless. Small mess-up on the job? Then your boss is going to find out then you’re going to get a bad performance review then you’re going to get fired and end up homeless. Tiff with the significant other? Then you’re going to have a massive breakup and you’re going to end up alone and –why not– homeless.

Just a few examples of what could go on in your head. Not that I know anything about that.

Little things spin themselves into huge things, because you’re new at this and so this is all you have to go off of.

An instant reprieve from the ever-present end-of-the world narrative? A dog.

A dog’s life is immediate. They don’t have the same conception of time that humans do. They don’t spend their days regretting the past or fretting the future. They are happy now. They are tired now. They are pooping now. Twenty seconds ago may as well be two years ago. It’s all about now.

So when the dog greets you at the door, tail wagging wildly, she is happy to see you NOW, and you, for a few fleeing nows, are happy too. And when she hears the magic word “walk” and does a happy spazz dance, you are happy too. A dog’s joy is all-present, all-encompassing, and you can’t help but feel it. You are not regretting bombing college trig, and you are not fretting your nonexistent retirement savings. You are being licked by a happy dog, and you are fully present in that joyous, sloppy moment.

Now, this all works out provided you have done a good job with said dog. This means you have to take a good hard look at yourself, your life, and see how a dog could be properly taken care of. If you’re an avid runner, perhaps an energetic breed that needs a daily hour of exercise is the kind of pooch for you. If you’re like me, on the job all day with occasional evening work, a mellow dog is your best bet.

My man and I adopted a Greyhound a year and a half ago. When we first got her, she was an undernourished bag of bones that was scared of everything. Now she’s ten pounds heavier, has a soft shiny coat, and is much more secure with the world.

To get her there, we’ve had to be patient. We’ve had to be responsible. We’ve had to ask for advice from our neighbors (which meant taking the time to meet them first). Mostly, we’ve had to give her our full, non-distracted attention.

It feels marvelous to have accomplished something –– to have helped and healed an animal. I’m also glad we know some neighbors now; it feels like we belong in our neighborhood, almost like we’re real adults.

But mostly, the best thing of all is a selfish one: all I have to do is give her a belly rub, or watch her do her pre-walk happy dance, or catch her trying to lick peanut butter off her long nose, and voila: I am wholly distracted from my crazed monkey brain. It’s a minor miracle, and lucky for me, it happens no less than a dozen times a day.

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