Annie Littlewood, 21, reporting from Overland Park, Kansas, on the dog who's here to sit and stay.
I always had a dog during childhood. Our last dog, a German shepherd named Buddy Love, had to be put to sleep a couple of months after I graduated from high school.
It took four years for me to finally decide it was time for a new companion. Then for months, my boyfriend Pieter and I discussed making a home for our friend's Boxer's soon-to-be puppies. When we met Captain Mauser, two days after his birth, we knew immediately he was the one.
Dog parenthood is a huge responsibility and expense. You have to be mature enough to take care of yourself and another living thing. Will you be able to do it alone? How will your roommates feel? Where do you spend your holidays? Is there someone to babysit if you have to go out of town without him/her? Do you truly want to start a friendship that will inevitably end in death? Can you handle that?
If you're not up for the months of training, there are plenty of older orphaned, free animals that need love (find out how you can help animal victims of the Haiti disaster here). Animal shelters are the best places to find a dog who is already potty-trained, has its shots, can walk on a leash, and doesn't chew on furniture, shoes, trash, etc.
There are also a lot of essentials that come with that animal: food, leashes, bones, shampoo, brushes, vitamins, veterinarian visits. About.com gives a chart on average yearly expenses of dog ownership. And, dogs need consistent exercise — so you have to be up for the walks too. Taking Mauser out twice a day has given us an exercise routine, plus more time to hold hands.
When I come home, my pup's shiny, chestnut-brown body wiggles uncontrollably, and I can see, feel his pure, honest adoration. Your dog will fill your life with daily comfort and joy — a blessing that can always cure you of boredom. (Fetch is the best game.) I get to wake up every morning with my best friend, a being who will be more consistent in loving me than any sweetheart, taking up the entire end of my bed.