Point of View: ‘Dogs are great’ is not a good reason to actually get one

I had a checklist of things I thought I wanted from my love relationships. They were qualities like neatness, intelligence and a taste for adventure.

With my current love, I got two out of three. I had to compromise on the neatness. I guess that’s what I get for meeting this individual on the Internet.

The picture I saw posted on the website was accurate, but I have to confess that until that moment, I never thought the love of my life would be so short, or so hairy.

But she is.

Her name is Willie. Willie is a 10-year-old Belgian Malinois. Before we found each other, Willie spent her time as an explosives detection dog in Iraq, working for a private contractor. When she got to the States after her years of service, her handler was unable to take care of her and she found her way to a breed-specific rescue site. Malinois are special dogs.

They’re not really pets – most working breed dogs don’t make great ones. Willie is no exception. She requires more or less constant exercise and mental stimulation. If her physical and mental needs are not met, she is destructive. Once, having spent too much time cooped up while I was at work, she took a bite out of my television cabinet. I wouldn’t have noticed, save for the fact that her mouth was full of splinters when I finally arrived.

We both learned our lesson. I learned to go home periodically throughout the day to check on her and let her out for some air, and she learned not to bite wooden things.

When I adopted her, I didn’t know what being the owner to one of these special dogs would entail. I didn’t know how much energy and effort I had committed myself to when I was driving her home. All I could think about then was how great it would be to have a dog.

I made a decision that would significantly impact my life with little thought to the consequences or implications. My decision to adopt Willie fundamentally changed the way I went about my everyday activities — suddenly, I was wholly responsible for the care and happiness of a completely separate being. And this was on top of the burden of living independently for the first time in my life and balancing a demanding school and work schedule.

I should have first considered Willie’s needs, and not my own, when I made the decision to get a pet. I urge you, my fellow students, to remember this when you are making the same decision. I’m telling you what someone should have told me (or what my mother did tell me and I failed to listen to).

If animals’ unique needs were often considered prior to hasty and underthought adoptions, I doubt we would have so many animals in shelters.

My advice is this:

1.) Don’t commit to buying or adopting or rescuing an animal until you are ready, until you have the time, money and space to take care of it.

2.) Research the traits of the breed you’re getting. I didn’t know anything about Malinois before I got mine. I’ve learned so much since then, but both she and I — and my television cabinet — could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble if I’d done my homework beforehand.

And finally, this:

3.) In the end, don’t let anything I’ve said deter you from adopting an animal if you’re ready. Taking Willie was the best decision I’ve made since coming to college.

Willie is the unequivocal love of my life, and even though our days are hectic and I’m often tired, it’s all so, so worth it.

I love her, as opposed to being in love with the idea of her.

Make sure you are ready to make the same choices before you bring a dog on board.

Caroline Brewton is a junior journalism major from Beaumont. She is the editor-in-chief of the Lariat.