Eleven years ago I was in a bad place. I was at the tail end of a very draining relationship that had gone on about six years too long. I was tired and working very long days waiting tables just to get by.
I was 33 and I had hit the wall. I was struggling with mystifying widespread chronic pain and fatigue as well as panic attacks. Every part of me needed a change. Every day I would ask the universe to guide me towards a better way—towards a job that would allow me to heal but take care of me financially, and for the strength to get an unhealthy person out of my life. I needed space to gain perspective to find peace. I had been helping a wonderful family with their dogs and that was giving me a little joy, but I needed more.
On February 21, 2009, my ex and I decided to take a drive out to Santa Monica towards the beach to celebrate his birthday. In my eight years living in Los Angeles I had only been out to the beach a few times. We were still trying to be friends; even though the relationship was long over we were still cohabitating. But it was hard.
We rolled past one of those outdoor rescue adoption setups on the sidewalk by a bank, and one of the pups caught his eye—a 42-pound puppy amongst all the tiny terriers. The wiry-haired white pup looked like Falcor, the dog dragon from The Never Ending Story. Never had I felt an energetic force of hands on my shoulders in this way. I felt gently pushed towards this tiny creature.
“Take him for a short walk,” the lady said, and I did. For most of the walk, I didn’t feel like I was in my body, as the puppy, unsure of his own limbs, got tangled between my legs.
When we got back the woman asked, “What do you think?”
“I would like him," I said. It was like someone else was speaking through me. I hadn't fallen in love with him just yet, but I knew some other force was in charge of this moment. I only had $50 to my name. The adoption fee was $250. The lady said, "pay me what you can today and pay the rest later."
Before I knew it we were on our way home. All three of us. The puppy was in the back seat, and when jazz came on the radio, I remember giggling and asking that silly creature if he was a jazz man.
The next day I went into full-fledged panic mode and could barely get out of bed. There was an animal living in my house just staring at me. We didn't speak the same language but he so desperately wanted to communicate. For four days, which seemed like two months, we stared at each other. I felt paralyzed with fear.
My ex, still in my apartment, finally said, “You need to figure it out or give him back. It's just not fair to him.” With those words something shifted in me. This little creature was mine and I was his. We needed to figure out how to communicate. So slowly, we began.
I started by naming him Chance.
Once that decision was made, I realized I wanted to spend as much time with Chance as I could. I was still working very long days for very little reward though and still exhausted. Then in late March, only one month after Chance and I found each other, my sister called and said her friend was moving to Los Angeles from New York and needed a dog walker. It had never occurred to me that I could spend my whole day with Chance and get paid for it.
My sister's friend and I set up to meet on a Saturday. The night before, my manager at work pulled me aside and said they were going to have to let me go. I had a negative review from a secret shopper; apparently I had not offered her dessert. Perhaps that was true, or perhaps the customer could tell I was over my job. I had never been fired before and it was 2009, when the economy was still reeling from the financial crisis. As I left my manager’s office, I should have felt worried and panicked about what might lie ahead, but instead I left feeling free, at peace, and actually excited. I knew that what was about to happen was for my greater good. I felt it deep inside.
The next day I trekked out to Brentwood from Koreatown and met my sister’s friend’s pup, who happened to be just under a year old, just like Chance. And that day was just the beginning. Over the next eleven years, Chance and I built a successful dog care business. It's really Chance’s business. See, Chance is a dog’s dog. He has yet to meet a dog he doesn't like, nor have we come across a dog that doesn't like him. There are many times I look to him for guidance when it comes to the dogs and many times he looks to me for guidance when it comes to people.
Chance opened my heart, guiding me to a new business and a new way of life. Having a dog care business has given me the opportunity to connect with all kinds of people, from fun-loving dog owners we meet on trails to some of the most influential people in the world. No matter who they are they all have one thing in common: the love of their dog.
As for Chance, he’s my best friend. He still leads the pack and helps guide the menagerie of dogs that I care for each day. The love and gratitude I feel for Chance on a daily basis is overwhelming sometimes. We’ve protected each other and guided each other through good times and bad.
Oh, and that guy who lived with me? Well, not long after Chance came into our lives, I did what I had needed to long before — I let him go. So, in every way, Chance has given me the strength to live a better life.
Can you relate? Do you have a story about a pet who changed your life? This is mine. I took a Chance.