Finding the perfect friend

Published 11:22 pm Friday, September 17, 2010

After moving out of my mom’s house to go college, I began a weekly journey to the animal shelter. At first meant to ease the pain of missing the family dogs, the trips became a quest to find my own furry soul mate.

Five and a half years later, my quest continued. Each pup never seemed like the right one, and it was never the right time. By last April, I had gotten over the instinct to take every single creature there home and resigned myself to the fact that I might not ever take a single animal home.

And then there he was, with his chocolate brown eyes and wispy black beard. In 8 short months, Miyagi, a Jack Russell Terrier-Black Labrador mix, had perfected the puppy stare and I was caught up in it. Unfortunately for us, my fiancé was even more caught up in it.

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After sleeping on the decision — adopting a pet should never be taken lightly — we brought our new puppy home, naming him after the Karate sensei who taught the art of waxing on and waxing off in “The Karate Kid.” My fiancé immediately went out and bought him the largest bone he could find and then slept through the night.

I, on the other hand, didn’t. I panicked. I woke up at 2 a.m. stressing out about the huge responsibility.

Don’t get me wrong. I grew up around animals. I’ve been happy to count three cats, two dogs, two birds, a rabbit and countless fish as part of my family over the years. So I know my way around the amount of time that goes into caring for animals.

But until you have your own animal ­­— and take full responsibility for the life of another living creature — you may never fully understand the hours and hours a day it takes to feed, walk, clean, love and generally worry about your pet.

And then there is the financial stress. From food to bones to treats to blankets to the occasional vet visit, we have certainly spent quite a bit of money on the little guy during the past five months.

But what Miyagi has given back to us is worth even more. Coming home every night to find him at the door wagging his tail as if to tell me I am the most important person in the world is still my favorite part of the day.

None of these experiences would have been possible were it not for an animal shelter. And while I discovered Miyagi at the Peninsula SPCA in Newport News, shelters everywhere deserve our support, including the Suffolk Humane Society.

One opportunity to donate to this invaluable organization is coming up tomorrow, from 1 to 5 p.m., in the form of the group’s third annual Mutt Strut.

If you’ve had the pleasure of adopting an animal, now’s the time to thank the shelter for its furry gift of love to your family. And if you haven’t been able to find the right furry friend, maybe tomorrow you’ll fall under the spell of a certain puppy’s eyes and you too will be greeted every night by a creature that adores you no matter what you do.