Throughout my life, I always grew up with a dog. As a young child I grew up with a Cocker Spaniel, and later on a Maltese. I always knew when I would come home from school I would be greeted at the door. I always had company when studying for a hard test, watching a movie, and going to sleep at night. I never considered what it would be like to experience life without a dog by my side.
After graduating high school, I was beyond excited to start college and live on my own, but little did I know all of the barriers I would have to face.
As a college student and an interior design major, I have a project due every week, exams that always seem to be scheduled on the same day as my other exams, sleep deprivation, extracurricular obligations, and all of the other responsibilities that come with living independently away from family. I found myself going multiple nights a week without sleep, and it slowly built up to the point where I was no longer the person I used to be. I had bags under my eyes at the age of 18,
I was surviving off of caffeine (which caused my health to deplete), and I started to struggle with anxiety and depression. I was always getting sick, but I didn’t have the time to heal, so I would just “power through.”
My life felt like a never-ending cycle of deadlines and obligations, and I could never stop to breathe. I continued to tell myself, “I just have to get through this project, then I can relax,” but in my mind I knew that I would be assigned another project on that same day I turned one in. I found myself experiencing anxiety attacks and I was no longer happy with the way I was living my life.
I have always had a special place in my life for animals, specifically dogs. When I find myself becoming overwhelmed, I choose to watch videos of puppies and dogs because they tend to calm me down. I have always wanted to own a dog of my own, but the On-Campus Housing does not allow dogs to live in the dorm rooms. I never really had the chance to interact with dogs either, because most of my friends also lived on campus or in an apartment that didn’t allow dogs.
One day, I came across a website with information about Emotional Support Dogs, and when I read through it, I found that I was eligible to have an emotional support dog in the dorm rooms because I have anxiety. After finally convincing my parents to allow and trust me to have my own dog, I met the puppy that changed my life.
On October 6, 2016, my life was changed when a fluffy little black and white Australian Shepherd that I named Bentley Levi Schilling entered into my life. But I quickly learned that puppies are much more than little bundles of joy. Not only did Bentley like to use the bathroom inside, but he had a special place that he would like to do it, which was the floor vent in my house (making it almost impossible to clean up).
Being a herding dog, he also enjoyed nipping at peoples’ clothing when they would try to run (many clothes which I had to pay to replace). Most people would think that this would add more stress to my life, but surprisingly it didn’t, because all of the happiness that Bentley brought into my life made up for the puppy mistakes he made. The more he grew, the more he learned. I taught him how to sit, shake, lay down, and fetch.
Sometimes he is stubborn and does not want to obey me, just as I am sometimes stubborn when I don’t want to play fetch with him. He has taught me how to truly be responsible just as I have taught him to be patient and loyal.
Over time, Bentley has learned more about me and I have learned more about him. We now share an amazing bond that is like no other. He is almost 6 months now and I already love him more than anything. I see him as both my child and my best friend, and he has brought such happiness and joy into my life.
I no longer dread going back to my dorm room to study or work on a project, because I know he will be there to greet me at the door. Staying up late to study doesn’t seem so lonely anymore now that I have him by my side. I haven’t had a single anxiety attack since he has entered my life, and I am so thankful for what he has done for me. I smile more than I ever, and I couldn’t imagine my life without him.
I try to help Bentley just as he has helped me. As a puppy, he was very timid of almost everything. Riding in the car scared him, new places scared him, new people scared him and being alone scared him. I wanted to show him that life as a constant adventure and is not as scary as it may seem. I started to bring him to dog parks and puppy play dates, so he would get the chance to socialize with new people and dogs to realize they are not so scary.
I brought him with me in the car every day and to new places like the beach, the lake, and hiking trails. He learned that he can always trust me to come back when I leave him alone, and he can trust not to put him in dangerous situations. He is now one of the friendliest puppies who is always ready to take on a new adventure. He is happiest when riding in the car with the window down, and I am happiest with him in my life.