A Year with Topher
Over the weekend we “celebrated” Topher’s adoption day! Rather, we gave him some fancy food, and bought him a new collar and bed that we’ve been putting off. Regardless, it’s been a year since we got him, and I’ve been reflecting on the past 365 days with my pup.
When we went to see Topher, the Thursday before we adopted him, his name was Grant. He was skin and bones, almost twenty five pounds lighter than his ideal weight, but still the sweetest, happiest dog you could hope to meet. After filling out his initial adoption paperwork, Bryan and I spent the rest of the evening at the pet store, debating the finer points of crate sizes and discussing name options. In retrospect, Appa would have also been a good name, from among the ones we were considering.
Topher needed to be neutered before he could officially come home with us, hence the 48 hour wait to pick him up. When we brought him home on that Saturday morning, we were given a few painkillers for him to take post-neutering, and also apprised of his other temporary health problems: kennel cough, and some flea hitch hikers. Luckily, he was heartworm negative.
This silly boxer mix is the first dog I’ve ever owned or taken care of, and I approached everything with an intensity that I think some only reserve for child-rearing. It’s possible that a piece of that stemmed from a desire to prove myself; we barely had any pets growing up, this is my very first rodeo, and I have a compulsive need to overachieve. Though some of the things I’ve done for my dog were born out of that anxious compulsion, their effects have been positive. I’ve lost a not-insignificant amount of weight because of our daily walks. Techniques learned in dog training classes have helped us keep Topher calmer at home. I’ve already checked “be a good dog owner” off life’s list of accomplishments, but it wasn’t daily walks or dog training that made me check that off my imaginary list.
The dog attack knocked me flat on my ass. Luckily, not in a literal sense; both Bryan and I dare not think at what could have happened if either loose dog had targeted me. But it did thrust me into a piece of dog ownership that I had hoped to avoid for a little longer, a place of weekly trips to a veterinarian, outrageous price estimates, and hourly medication. A place where you have to be prepared to decide how much you’re willing to pay, and how much you think your dog can take. I am still relieved that Topher is able to keep his right eye, even though I know removing it may come up again in the future. I am relieved that his impairment is minor, that his eye does not cause him daily pain, and that his quality of life has not declined.
In ways, the dog attack left me with my own set of challenges, ones that I am still working at: feeling safe while out walking in my neighborhood; not getting into screaming matches with owners who let their dogs run free in leash-only areas; learning to properly control Topher rather than just fearing what he’ll do if I can’t physically hold him back. For both of us, it’s a process. But these are all challenges I feel prepared for, after the fact.
At times it’s been a very wild ride, but as we pass the year marker since his adoption, life with our dog is pretty routine. Topher might not be the most well mannered dog, and sometimes he’s a downright beast, but he’s ours, and I’m glad we have him.