February 25, 2016

Lessons From My First Dog

Although she's been gone for two and a half years now, sixteen years ago today I adopted my dog Lasya from Larimer County Humane Society in Fort Collins, Colorado. I was finishing up my final semester at Colorado State University, applying for jobs all over the country (and in fact I turned down a dream job offer at The Farm Sanctuary in upstate New York after I adopted her because it was a live-in position and I could not bring a dog). It was the worst time to get a dog. My relationship was on the brink of ending, and we'd just lost our incredible family dog - a German Shepherd mix called Ripley - tragically young to a rare form of canine leukemia. It was the best time to get a dog. Like all my dogs since, I picked her out from an online picture in the early days of the internet. I'd always loved my grandparent's chow mix, Brutus, and she reminded me of him. Besides, I was a bit of a goth back then and black pet hair matched all of my clothes.
When I went to meet her, she wasn't particularly interested in me and was always an aloof and independent dog, but I fell in love with her nevertheless. One of my three roommates vetoed my proposal - we already had five cats in the house, two of which were mine. I took the leash, collar, food and bowl I had already bought for her and tearfully donated it to the shelter, specifying it go with her when she was adopted. When that roommate failed to come up with his share of the utilities that month, I decided that I was getting my damn dog and he didn't get to have any say about it!

Lasya is one half of the reason that I've become an even "crazier" dog person with The Ginger Sisters. I soak in all the information I can get my hands on. I spend more time with my dogs and prioritize their care and comfort. I'm more dedicated, I'm more tuned in, I'm more in love with my dogs, something I didn't think possible. The heart's capacity is limitless, and Lasya and Freya expanded it beyond its known borders. The truth is, I have many regrets about Lasya. She taught me the ways I can do better, and her memory has shaped the kind of dog guardian I am today.

I used a prong collar on her, and now I am committed to force-free, reward-based training. I have pet insurance now so I don't have to make economic medical decisions. I was fortunate that in the time I had Lasya, she was very healthy until the last few years of her life, but I got her right out of college with no financial stability and was in no way prepared for the kinds of vet bills I've now grown familiar with. I wish I'd given her better things to eat. I fed her food from the grocery store - now I take more responsibility for my dogs' nutrition and feed them a carefully researched, high quality rotation diet. I don't have nearly enough pictures of Lasya - when I write about her I usually have to recycle images I've already used. I wish there were more, and so I take pictures and videos of Ruby and Boca constantly; technology makes that easier. I wish we'd had more time, more long walks while she was still robust and mobile, more hikes in the mountains and more off-leash time at my folks property and the barn after I moved the horses up here, something we had to limit when she started going deaf. I wish I had slept on the floor downstairs with her that last night. 

Her name at the shelter was Zero, like Jack Skellington's dog in The Nightmare Before Christmas. I loved that movie but she was one in a million - not a zero - so I promptly changed it to something more fitting after poring over my encyclopedia of gods and goddesses. Lasya is Sanskrit for "dancing girl" and she embodied lightness and joy. I knew so much less about dogs then, but she was patient and protective and endlessly loyal. She was confident and benevolent with other dogs and an impressively fierce hunter. She was reserved and disarmingly wise. I will never forget how happy and proud I was walking her through campus that first day, my very own beautiful shining dog. I wasn't the perfect dog owner then, but Lasya was the perfect dog. I miss her so.


  1. Lasya was so beautiful! <3 ((hugs))

  2. Lasya what a beautiful name for a beautiful dog! First dogs are always so special. I still have my first dog's picture in my wallet. He died 10 years ago. But I still clearly remember the day when I first met him. :) Thank you for reminding us to remember our first dogs. <3

  3. This is beautiful. What a gorgeous girl.


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