Everyone has something that’s getting them through these four years. Maybe it’s your friends, maybe it’s music or maybe it’s certain substances. Nevertheless, we all have that one thing that keeps us going.
Mine takes the form of a 100-pound Great Dane. She’s got floppy ears, droopy jowls, the sweetest brown eyes (I call them baby eyes), shiny black fur and the purest heart.
I’m sure I’m not the only student whose dog is one of the things that keeps me going. Dogs have been deemed ‘man’s best friend’ for a reason. They love unconditionally, and we carry the bonds we form with them for life.
But my dog is nearly 532 miles away. She’s back at home in Pennsylvania, and I only see her when I’m on break. I don’t get to go see her on the weekends, and she doesn’t get to come visit me at school.
“Okay,” you’re probably thinking, “There are several students who don’t get to see their dogs. Get to the point.”
I know that. I’m not the only one who misses her dog. But I’m writing this in hopes to resonate with the people in the same boat as me.
Let me take you back to 2020. For me, I had to make the excruciating decision to put my beloved Basset Hound, Maggie, to sleep on New Year’s Eve. What a way to start off the year, right?
Months later, my family moved into our new home after losing our previous one to a flood. I was still healing from losing Maggie. I never thought I’d be ready for another dog; in fact, my dad made it clear that the Southard family wouldn’t be getting any more pets.
But after months of living in our new house, it just felt empty. There was a void in my heart that Maggie left. It didn’t feel normal to be living without a dog, without something to take care of and love.
Once summer rolled around, an opportunity fell into my lap: There was a litter of Great Dane puppies available near me. I knew my dad had said no more dogs, but I simply couldn’t let this chance pass by me. Since I was a little kid, I’d always wanted a Great Dane, and I was finally ready for another dog.
So I bought one.
Buying a giant breed dog without asking my parents — bold, I know, but I have absolutely no regrets. When my dad found out what I’d been up to, he wasn’t happy. I still prepared to bring my puppy home, and once I did, my entire family fell in love with her.
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She came with the name Tater Salad, and while that’s a great name, I already had one in mind. I called her Lolita, after the novel (I love classic literature) and the Lana Del Rey song.
I bought Lolita with the intention of moving her out to college with me — which was quite a stupid idea. I knew she’d get huge, but I thought everything would work out fine. Spoiler alert: It didn’t, and I have no clue why I thought I’d ever be able to bring a Great Dane to college.
That aside, Lolita brought me an indescribable amount of happiness after enduring such a hard time in my life. She’s the first dog I’ve ever trained, raised and cared for by myself. She’s the first dog I’ve legally had in my name.
She’s my heart dog. Make no mistake, I still miss Maggie terribly, but Lolita has shown me that I can grieve one dog and still love and bond with other ones.
Whatever I feel, Lolita feels. She can always tell when I’m having a rough day and provides me with endless comfort and laughs. When I’m happy, she’s happy. She follows me all over the house; we even share my twin-sized bed.
It destroyed me to leave Lolita when I moved out for my first year of college. It still pains me to leave her now, and I’m in my second year.
If you have an emotional attachment to your dog like I do, you know it hurts even more to imagine how they’re feeling. They don’t understand where you’re going, why you’re gone for so long or if you’ll even come back.
Not a day goes by where I don’t think about Lolita or look at the thousands of photos I have of her. It’s hard not to have her to help me cope on my bad days, but I’ve begun to find comfort in knowing that she’ll always be waiting for me, and once I’m done with school, I’ll get to see her every day.
That’s the thing about dogs. They’re forgiving, and they love you no matter what. Even while they may not understand why you leave, they’ll always be ready to greet you at the door with a wagging tail and slobbery kisses when you come back.
So if you’re struggling with being separated from your dog, let that thought console you. Get through these next few weeks, months or years. Your dog won’t resent you, and at the end of the day, they’ll just be happy to have their person home.