Who Knew Adopting a Dog Would Show the Stagnancy Stability Can Bring

Written by Jordan Cooley

A little over two weeks ago, I adopted a beagle-dachshund puppy with tiny brown eyebrows and fat little paws named Jasper. I had been researching about owning, training, and loving a dog for over a year, so I felt prepared when the opportunity to take him home from Austin Pets Alive! came up. What I’ve come to realize though, is that there was no amount of Reddit threads that could have prepared me for the emotional upheaval I’m going through.

Jas feels like the first real risk I’ve taken in a long time. Like most things, I’m afraid of what this failing will look like : if it’s raising him to be anxious, unable to self-soothe or be alone; if it’s sacrificing my own health to raise him well; if it’s admitting that I can’t do this. I equally want someone to tell me that it’s okay that I fantasize about taking him back and that it gets easier; that one day he will stop smearing his shit all over my bedroom and I’ll stop crying.

Selfishly, I want to love him but I also want to skip the hard part.

And there it is — I want to skip this hard part because it feels like failure and evokes shame. I don’t know if I’m going to succeed or even what that ‘success’ looks like in raising a dog.  For the first time in my life, I am responsible for another being’s growth and my over-achieving and impatient self wants to ‘succeed’ after only having him for two weeks.

As I sit here, Japanese Breakfast playing quietly through my apartment and Jas finally calm in his kennel after thirty minutes of crying, I think about how unfair of an expectation that is for both of us. Raising him is going to be a series of unknown risks and failures.

I’m not used to that — for the most part, the decisions I’ve made as an adult have been calculated and fail-proof. Which isn’t a bad thing. Because of this, I knew how to budget my time in college to balance a full-time job, run a small poetry non-profit, and graduate at the top of my class. I got to study abroad in France for my last semester because I knew how to strategize my classes. I now have a six-month emergency fund and a bit of extra cash in my checking account for a rainy day because I track Every. Last. Penny.

But it also means I was raised to strategize against failures and maximize my own comfort. A good portion of my life has been planning for every worst-case scenario, calculating how much time it would take for me to get to ‘the end’ and if I could avoid the failure altogether.

Surprise : this has often gotten messy when I can’t anticipate how the failure will affect me. I have put off writing essays and poems because I’m afraid that someone will read my work and invalidate my experience. I stayed with my last partner long after I should have left because I needed to be sure that I could survive not having someone love me. I kept going to the job I got right out of college that caused me to black out regularly from anxiety attacks because of the perceived shame of quitting and going back to the service industry.

I allowed myself to lean into these unhealthy behaviors because they gave me was a sense of stability, the comfort of at least surviving. My fear of what life looks like after failing has kept me from taking risks and thus, breeding a sense of stagnancy.

Adopting Jas has forced me to recognize that for either of us to grow or learn anything, we need to be afraid, to lean into the unknown, to take the time to be uncomfortable. We need to fully feel failure to learn what doesn’t work and allow ourselves to be rewarded when those risks pay off.

With my 24th birthday days away, I am bumbling with my hands outstretched trying to figure out what my next step will be. If Jas has taught me anything, it’s that I need to be patient and kind with myself. That this is going to take some time.

Jordan Cooley is a writer and self taught artist in Austin, TX. She graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in English and has worn many hats, including Slam Master and President of a poetry non-profit called Mic Check, financial analyst for JP Morgan, researcher and executive assistant for AmeriCatalyst and now bartender at Better Half Bar. Each day, she is feverishly working towards becoming a better ally, a more nuanced writer, and a woman who accepts the goofy slips and slides of life. Follow on Insta @jarcy_ and on Twitter @jrcooley_ to see what kind of falls she makes on the daily.

Chelsea Francis