JOPLIN, Mo. —
I am not a pet owner.
I do have a dog that I spend a lot of time with. She goes on walks with me. She curls up on my couch every night for "The Daily Show." She gets excited anytime she can get in my car, and she barks at the door when she thinks someone might be coming toward my apartment.
She also tears apart her toys and occasionally makes a mess out of the trash can. And, without warning, she will chase any dog she sees on our walk together.
My 10-pound miniature pincher-maltipom mix and I are a lot of things to each other, but I am not her owner. My dog, Cami, means a lot more to me than that.
I adopted her from a kennel adoption drive in August 2010 while I lived in Springfield. My wife and I wanted to welcome a dog in to our apartment, because we were both animal lovers and we were intent on giving a dog a second chance. We had looked for a solid month, trying to find a dog that would fit in to our lives, but we kept striking out.
The first time I saw her, I knew she was the one. She was curled up in a small dog bed at the last kennel in front of that Petsmart. I went right for her. I picked her up and despite the heat on that August day, she curled up in my arms.
Her blonde hair was already covering my black shirt as she snuggled toward my chest, but at that point I was defenseless. She sealed the deal with a puppy-dog kiss and a tiny little bark that wouldn't intimidate anyone. Thirty minutes later, that tiny puppy came home with us.
When my wife and I separated, I asked to keep Cami with me. I didn't have a lot of money at the time, but I knew she would always be a priority for me.
It hasn't been easy, but she would find an occasional rawhide waiting in my bag for her or a new tennis ball for our outdoor excursions. I have made time to train her as well as I can. Seeing her happy made me happy.
Two years later, I still get that twinge of warmth every time I see her. I know moving and adjusting has been hard on both of us, but we came out on the bright side.
My editor, Carol Stark, asked me if I would be interested in writing a weekly pet column dealing with some of the issues that crop up with pets and pet owners in our area. I'm excited to share my experience of having a pet and to reach out to a community that I am now a part of.
I'm a recent transplant to Joplin, by way of northwest Missouri, and I have already run into several issues locally that I have had to figure out on the fly. Finding an apartment that allowed pets at a reasonable rate was extremely difficult, as was finding a veterinarian who could meet my needs. I was overwhelmed with the move here to begin with, but my dog compounded that even further.
My weekly goal here is to be an advocate for people who welcome pets into their homes and offer advice to pet owners who may feel overwhelmed. I'll also look at laws and regulations in the area that impact your pets. If I can help alleviate some of the stress that I've went through with my pet, maybe I will be able to help you get to the fun part of having a pet.
Personally, I feel that the enjoyment of having a pet in your house is one of the greatest things to be had. Be it a stoic Labrador that watches over your house at night, a sleek tabby cat that enjoys a belly rub or a parakeet that mimics your words, I believe they can make life that much better -- both for you and your pet.
I know when I go home tonight, Cami will be there waiting for me. She'll be glad to see me, especially if a new episode of ÒThe Daily ShowÓ is on TV. It's that time of my day when I feel most lucky to have a dog like her in my life.
Contact Ryan Richardson about this column or other topic suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 417-627-7363.