In the summer of 2016, one week away from my twenty-second birthday I was prematurely going through my mid-life crisis. On the outside looking in, everything was good. A newly purchased home, a career with opportunities for advancement. On my own, I thought I could conquer the world. But in truth anxiety was beginning to creep in and destroy my confidence. I was lonely, my only friend was about to move to Scotland. My family lived thousands of miles away, and my social life revolved around going to work. One day on lunch I began perusing the local Craigslist for the area where I lived. An ad for free puppies caught my attention. They were four months old, hound-mixes, needing good homes ASAP. I began evaluating my abilities to care for a dog. I lived alone in the middle of the country, with a large fenced in yard. My job was Monday through Friday and allowed me weekends and evenings at home. As an animal lover since childhood I immediately called the number without a second thought.
An elderly woman answered, revealing that she was actually the neighbor of the family who had the puppies. They could no longer afford to keep feeding them as they grew and had asked her to post an ad as they didn't own a computer. She went on to say how they all were covered in fleas and had worms, but that they were sweet and loved people. I told her I would be down after work to pick one up.
I drove the one hour to Tyler, Texas with my one and only friend. She knew I was terrified of going on my own, and offered to go with me so we could spend time together before her departure. When we pulled into the house, we were met by a group of children running around playing tag. Eight roly poly puppies tumbled after them as they screamed and laughed with joy. A little girl, dirt smudged on her face, came running up to me. "Are you here for a puppy?" she asked. These children clearly came from very little, but there was something about the way they smiled and played that made me understand how childhood innocence worked. They didn't understand that they came from poverty. They didn't understand that the puppies had to go because their parents couldn't afford dog food. That in itself made me realize the importance of these puppies. They were a happy distraction to very sad lives. One that I desperately needed myself.
The fattest puppy came loping over to me and sat at my feet before running off to the food bowl. I watched him chase after the children, snuggle up with his siblings, and go back for more food. I was already in love. I had to have him. I picked him up, realizing just how dirty and smelly he really was as I held him close. This dog would be my own saving grace. My own happy distraction from a sad life.
Ten minutes later we were driving back home. The dirty puppy sleeping in my friends lap. We threw potential names back and forth before finally landing on Louis L'Amour. The western author was one of my escapes from reality, and it just made sense to have the puppy be named as such. Louis was as rambunctious as any puppy was expected to be. He slept, played, howled, and loved eating. He remained calm at the vets office. Standing still during his examination and remaining quiet as they took tests for worms. He was uncomfortable, but somehow he knew that I needed him to be good. And he was.
As time went on my attachments grew, to something relatively unhealthy. He became the source of my happiness, my constant companion, and best friend. When a horrible tragedy happened in my life, he lay his head on my lap and quietly just looked up with his big brown eyes. In times of duress or stress he was there, wagging his tail. During sudden anxiety attacks he would come forward and calmly sit on me as I clung to him for comfort. My service dog was unregistered, had no papers, was honestly just a mutt, but a service dog to me nonetheless. As if going after the mail-man, Louis went after my insecurities and anxiety until at last I felt safe and guarded.
Even when I began working from home he was constantly by my side wherever I go. I had spent hours before looking at certain dog breeds with wonderful qualities and temperaments, but no dog has ever come close to my little mutt. It wasn't the fact that I wanted him, but the fact that I needed him and he needed me. I think the true relationship between a dog and their owner comes from mutual need. Without him, I would have survived, but I wouldn't have thrived. And he might still be in Tyler, Texas being eaten away by fleas.
Life changed for me, I was able to escape my own sorrows with Louis by my side. He remains my constant companion. Our lives have intertwined in a way that I am not me without Louis. And in truth, there is nothing better in the world than having a dog that will forever be my roly poly puppy. I can thank Craigslist for that.