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How Owning A Pet Has Changed My Life - Delenn Breedlove

The following essay was written for the EntirelyPets scholarship program (Spring 2014) by Delenn Breedlove, answering the question "How has owning a pet changed your life?" The essay won 1st place in competition and Delenn was awarded a $1500 scholarship. Delenn is studying Finance and Economics at Boise State University.

"We aren't getting another dog."

My grandmother said it again and again. No more animals. She couldn't go through it again.

Growing up on a farm, my grandmother had had many dogs. She grew attached to each of them, although some more than others. But with that attachment came sadness. Loss. The dogs would die of old age, or illness, or run away, or be hit by cars. Animals die, often in tragic ways.

When I was in first grade my parents decided it was time we got our first dog. We went to the local pound, and we instantly fell in love with a border collie/blue heeler puppy. She was fun and energetic 'just what a family with three little kids needed.

Tina was a trouble maker. She chewed up our shoes, nipped our ankles as she tried to herd us like her breed herds sheep, and ran crazily throughout the house. She caused my mother a great deal of stress, but we loved her.

My grandmother, who lived with us, pretended not to care, but we all knew she secretly loved Tina too. A year later, Tina finally started to calm down and things were better than ever. She was high-energy, but she was a beloved member of the family.

But just as she settled in, tragedy stuck and we were left shaken. Tina escaped through the back fence when no one was home, ran off, and was hit and killed by a truck on a highway onramp. Even my grandmother cried that day.

Fast-forward a few years and a local animal rescue organization, Puppy Love Rescue, run by one of my mother's friends, calls to inform us that they have the perfect puppy for our family. "No thank you," my mother says, "we do not want another dog." My grandmother agreed. No more heartbreak.

But the organization was persistent that we would love this dog, so my mother agreed that we could meet him, but no promises that he would be adopted. We bonded with the puppy instantly. With his fluffy white fur and his big, loving eyes, the little poodle/bichon mix melted our hearts. We had to have him.

My brothers and I were persistent, and even our father worked on convincing our mother and grandmother. And it didn't take much. Next thing we knew we were buying him a collar and setting up his dog bed in the living room.

We named our new puppy "Chiqui", short for the Spanish word "chiquito", meaning "little one." It is a name my grandfather had lovingly given to all of his small dogs on his farm. At any one time he might have three or more dogs all named Chiqui (Chiqui Junior, Chiqui Senior).

Chiqui is the most loving and wonderful dog. Even in his old age, he still runs to greet my father when he gets home from work, and is always willing to sit with anyone who will scratch his belly. Not only is he loving, but Chiqui is smart. He understands words like "go inside," not only in English, but also in Spanish.

Chiqui brings us all laughter and happiness, but his greatest gift was to my grandmother. Chiqui gave my grandmother a purpose. She was elderly, and with my brothers and me in school and no longer needing to be babysat, my grandmother spent her days bored and alone. Chiqui was her companion. He glued himself to her feet while she watched TV and scratched his belly with her feet. He was gentle with her as they walked around the neighborhood, never tugging on the leash or tripping her. Even while he was being potty trained and would have accidents in the house, my grandmother loved him. He was her baby and her friend. He made her smile. He gave her life.

Although my grandmother is no longer with us and Chiqui is getting very old and weak, the happy memories live on. Chiqui brought a light to my family that we would not have found otherwise. He kept my grandmother young, and taught her to let loose and have more fun.

As we grow older, consume ourselves with work, and move away for college, Chiqui remains a soft spot in each of our hearts, and in a way, a rock for our family. He is our precious little baby that loves everyone, even when we argue. He is everyone's friend, and when my brothers move out and my mother is left with an "empty nest" next year, I know Chiqui will give her the same purpose and life that he gave my grandmother years ago.