JOPLIN, Mo. —
After completing my first year at The Joplin Globe, I decided to take my first non-working vacation in about five years last week so I could spend time with my family during the holidays.
Despite the brutal cold and the inevitable snowstorm that I drove through on my way back, the trip was totally worth it. I got to spend time with my niece and nephew, I got to swap fantastic gifts with my family members, and I spent some quality time hanging out with a lot of friends from college.
I ended up watching two of my college friends' house for the first four days I was home, which was a great experience for my dog and I. They have three small dogs like mine, and they also have a dog they are watching for a mutual friend while she goes through the end of her pregnancy.
The chances of me getting a second dog are slim to none until I secure the funds for a bigger home and have the time to devote to a new companion. I genuinely feel bad about depriving my dog of having a friend around, but owning another dog is not feasible for me right now.
Last week turned out to be a treat for both us.
For four days Cami got to run around inside a fenced-in yard, share toys and eat food with her new friends. This socialization is something that I have craved for her for a long time.
I kept her kennel in a separate room from the other dogs just in case there was any sort of aggressive behavior exhibited, which was my biggest fear. My dog is defensive of me and has gradually become more vocal toward other people and animals that she's unfamiliar with. I did the same with her food and water because I've seen dogs get very protective when it comes to eating.
I even let my mom know that Cami might be spending time with her if behavior wasn't acceptable. But about 10 minutes after letting the dogs meet, my worries were gone.
There was barking. There were dogs running around the kitchen. They were taking turns at the water dish. Most importantly, tails were wagging. We were off and running beautifully.
They spent a lot of time together outside throughout the weekend. There was still a nice snowpack back home, even with temperatures rising into the 40s through the weekend. I made a quick stop at a nearby store to pick up a sleeve of tennis balls to throw in the snow and be dug out by whichever dog found it first. Treats were given out from Cami's secret stash, but she didn't seem to mind sharing.
At night, Cami went to sleep with the other dogs. Her new friends were way more fun to stay with than the guy who feeds her on a regular basis.
I couldn't have been a more proud doggy dad -- my dog had finally grown up.
We're home now, and last week is starting to fade into memory, but that experience is going to stick with us for a long time. I now trust my dog to know when to reel it in when it comes to other dogs, which might be one of the best Christmas presents I have received -- and given -- in a long time.
Contact Ryan Richardson about this column or other topic suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 417-627-7363.Ê