April 14th 2012 is the day my life changed for the better. I adopted an American Bulldog mutt named Riley from Gulf Coast Humane Society in Fort Myers, FL. At the time, I was transitioning into truly getting out on my own in life as an adult. I had just rented my first apartment, quit swimming professionally, and started working full-time to become truly independent. Little did I know, it would also become the year that I dealt with a major breakup, “real” stress, and a relapse of major depression.
I was volunteering at Gulf Coast Humane Society when I saw this tiny white mutt that was all ears. His little nubby tail wiggled around when he caught me staring and he jumped up every time I would walk by. He was hard to ignore and impossible to forget. Not one minute went by that I did not think about taking Riley home with me. One day, I took the leap of faith. I rounded up every spare dollar I had for my apartment’s pet fee and applied to take Riley home from GCHS. Turns out that I wasn’t the only one who wanted him. I fought tooth and nail, sent in 30 pages worth of documents, and visited every single day to make sure the love of my life came home with me and not another family. Finally, after weeks of nail biting, I packed up the car with treats, blankets, and toys and went to pick up my Riley Bear.
To this day, nothing can compare to the bond that I share with my dogs. But the relationship I have with Riley in specific is one for the books. He sat by me when I was bed ridden for days, he hugs me when I cry, he has a personality all his own, and he is a true momma’s boy. Riley was by my side for a lot of major moments in my life and I hope he tags along for quite a few more. He is the main reason why I continued to advocate for animal rights/adoption and the reason why I don’t think I will ever stop.
Adopt don’t shop! So many wonderful animals have the opportunity to go into loving homes like yours if you just give a shelter pet a fighting chance.