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A Girl and Her Dogs
Karaoke vs. hula hoops
Kate & Leo

Even from a young age, I was convinced my life would not be absolutely complete until I had a dog to call my own. Now, at 24 with two dogs, I can tell you that in many ways it is complete and also complicated! My rite of passage into adulthood began when I adopted my first dog a few years ago, a small Schipperke mix who the rescue aptly named “Skipper.” To me, Skipper meant I never would have to come home to an empty house, I would always have someone to take to the park, and perhaps most importantly, I would always have someone to secretly watch Lifetime Original Movies with who wouldn’t judge me when I cried (or at least wouldn’t say anything). Nearly a year later, Skipper’s rescue contacted me to let me know they had another Schipperke, which is how Leo joined our family.

As a young adult, my social life has changed dramatically as a result of being a dog owner. I don’t have the same “freedom” I once had. I can’t just crash at a friend’s house in San Francisco. I can’t be gone all day and then head out for the night. I have to be home for my dogs. Initially, it was painfully apparent that I had sacrificed something to be a dog owner. If I were invited out to karaoke, before I could even consider which sequin dress to wear, I’d realize that I had been at work all day and probably should stay home. Some might say I’m punishing the world by not sharing my life-changing rendition of Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance with Somebody with the public. So be it. Sometimes it’s more important to stay home and teach your dogs to jump through a hula-hoop. 

Today, I have adjusted fully to being a dog owner. A typical Saturday afternoon now consists of my boyfriend and I lounging on the sofa with the dogs after a long hike. We ponder important and life-altering questions like: If celebrities were dogs, which dogs would they be? Meryl Streep would be a Saluki. Tom Hanks would be a Cocker Spaniel. Fabio would be an Afghan Hound—no question. To our friends who don’t have dogs, these types of afternoons seem pointless and borderline insane, but to us it’s just part of being a dog lover.

Though there are drastic lifestyle changes that come with having dogs, there are major benefits too—we have a lot more dance parties at my house after we discovered Leo loves dancing! I don’t need to invest in one of those robot-vacuums, because the dogs will immediately inhale any scraps of food I drop (except those which are poisonous to dogs, of course!). And I didn’t know it was possible to have that much fun at a beach until I got the dogs. This is my life now; while it involves scooping poop and often staying in on Friday nights, the amount of joy and fulfillment these dogs have brought into my life has changed me more than any number of Toga parties could. It took some getting used to, but now I can’t remember life before the dogs and I don’t know if I care to.

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Kate VandenBerghe is a recent graduate of the California College of Arts MFA program in San Francisco. She runs Paper Animal Design, her own freelance design company, and lives in Oakland with her two rescue pups, Skipper and Leo.

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