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World's Best Teaching Assistant

by Sarah Shea about a year ago in adoption
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Mr. Collin, G.B. (Good Boy)

Collin curled up for a nap.

I never imagined myself to be the kind of person to dote on a seven-pound chihuahua, but life is funny like that.

Yes, I was one of those people who got a pet during the pandemic, but my husband and I had been talking about getting a dog well before we got married, waiting until we were more financially stable and emotionally ready to devote as much of our attention as we could to adjusting our lifestyles to accommodate a dog.

Trust me, it's not a decision we made lightly.

At the last apartment community we lived, we were limited as far as what kind of dog we could have living with us. We had to stick to "non-aggressive" breeds (I have strong feelings about this concept, but that's another story) under 15 pounds.

What surprised me (and also didn't) was how many chihuahuas were up for adoption on PetFinder. We were hesitant to consider that breed as well, for all the stereotypical reasons that they're disliked: small, yappy, sometimes mean. But we really wanted a dog.

We didn't have the best luck at first, but the morning after we submitted an application that included several chihuahuas on the wish list, the rescue got in touch with us. The chihuahuas were the only ones still available to adopt, so we picked a tan and white one named Colleen.

Almost as soon as we were approved, we put in orders for doggy supplies for just about everything we could think about except for essentials that needed to be fitted for the dog. We also rearranged the furniture in our one-bedroom apartment to make it as doggy-friendly as possible to welcome the newest member of our little family.

One chilly but sunny morning in November, we got a call and a text from the rescue. Apparently Colleen, who had just arrived from Texas, turned out to be a Collin. The confusion arose from the many different spellings his name had taken.

So when they asked if we still wanted to adopt him, we responded, "Of course! We don't care what parts he has, we just want a dog."

At the outdoor rescue, an employee brought us to a small, separate enclosure where Collin was already jumping at the caging with his tail wagging. We managed to enter without letting him loose, and as soon as I knelt to pet him, he leapt into my lap.

When we first met our good boy.

I know now how terrified he is of other dogs, and how badly he must have wanted a human -- any human -- to take him away from the cacophony of barking, but I still took it as an incredible sign of trust. We paid the fee, collected the paperwork, took a family photo, and we were off.

He slept the entire ride home and most of the time during the following days. At one point, my husband stood over him, watching him nap.

"You worried?" I asked.

"We have a dog," he explained. "But he doesn't act like a dog."

But we were patient. We had to remember that not only did he need to get used to his new home and to us, but we also needed to get used to having a dog in our life. As children, we had both had family dogs, but now we would be the primary caretakers and shoulder the responsibility for Collin. We had just as much to learn as he did.

And it was well worth it.

Like many nonessential workers, I had to adapt to working from home at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While I originally marveled at no longer needing to commute up to an hour to work (think of all the gas money I saved during a year and a half!), working from home quickly grew depressing for a variety of reasons.

As a teacher, I noticed a dramatic drop in student engagement, even with the courses that held regular online class meetings (as opposed to some of my asynchronous courses).

I also gained weight because I a) ate more, due to easier access to food, and b) didn't leave the house very often, for obvious reasons. Since we were on lockdown during the early days of the pandemic, I couldn't leave to see family or friends. And since I lived on the third floor with no elevator, I didn't really want to leave, except to check the mail.

This is probably a familiar story that others experienced while working from home, but needless to say that my physical and mental health took a toll.

Enter Collin.

With this furry little bundle of joy in my life during remote learning, I had someone to focus on besides myself. It didn't matter if I didn't want to go up and down three flights of stairs (rain, shine, or winter snow) because Collin needed exercise and bathroom breaks. It didn't matter that I didn't want to drive to the store because Collin needed a new bag of food or a grooming appointment. It didn't matter if I experienced little to no student participation . . . okay, it did matter. But it still helped me feel less useless and alone to feel the warm little lump under the blanket, cuddling by my feet.

Never enough blankets in the world.

And just as Collin made me feel happier during a challenging time, I think that Collin's life is better now that he's with us, too.

We'd been told that he had been rescued along with three other chihuahuas from a hoarding situation after their previous owner had passed away. We could see his hip bones and count his vertebrae. And he cried and whined when we left him home alone.

He still has a long way to go. He still cowers at the sight of other dogs, even those smaller than he.

But he's grown so much healthier and so much more confident.

Even though I've started working on campus again and leaving the house for extended periods, he no longer cries when I put him in the crate because he knows I'll come home.

And the best sight in the world when I first walk through the door is to watch him light up and bound towards me, excited to welcome me home with nose kisses.

He may not be a full-time T.A. anymore, but he's the best grading buddy.


Collin, we love ya, bud.


About the author

Sarah Shea

I am a teacher with a passion for creative writing. My favorite genres to write are young adult, humor poetry, and memoir essays. Join me on my journey!

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