This I Believe series: My dog changed my life


Shannon Harris

Hero and inspiration

I believe the greatest feature of dogs are their pure hearts.

Seeing dozens of chocolate Labs, all in cardboard boxes under newspaper — some in pink bows and some in orange — I can remember feeling overwhelmed and excited.  My dad, mom and brother were with me, all choosing between two dogs.  As soon as we saw her quirky personality, we knew Bella was the one.

Growing up with anxiety getting in the way of my everyday life, I discovered I could get a profound sense of comfort from dogs.  The thing about Bella is she senses how I feel, and she feels it’s her job to help me.  Always.

When I feel anxious or am going through an anxiety attack, Bella is the first being I go to for comfort and distraction.  Some nights, I wake from my sleep, only able to open my eyes.  The rest of my body is paralyzed, and I am unable to yell for help.  I have difficulty breathing, and my throat feels like it’s closing in on me.  At times like this, Bella, who always sleeps in my bed at night, will scooch closer to me to let me know she is there.  I can feel her paw at my arm, telling me that she wants to be petted. This will never get old.

Ever since the moment I developed a special relationship with my dog, I knew I wanted to do what I could to help animals. I was ecstatic at the thought of being a veterinarian. Realizing I wanted to incorporate animals in my everyday life and take the next big step, I shadowed a veterinarian to get a true feeling of what the vet’s daily life was like. Helping animals, specifically dogs, every day would provide me with extreme joy. I imagine my life would be filled with love and happiness.

Without a selfless dog like Bella in my life, I truly believe I would not have become the  person I am.  I would never have known how much animals would change my life. Bella inspires me to take risks every day and do the things I desire. Some of these risks included joining the track team and being more involved in my community through volunteering. The one thing I want is to not have regrets about not doing something in my life.

Bella is always there for me, no matter the time or place. I can always count on Bella for reassurance. I grew up as a shy kid with social anxiety, but Bella has helped me to find ways to break out of my shell.  She played the role of a companion while doing so. 

Sadly, dogs live much shorter lives than we do.  Yet even though they are only a portion of our lives, we are their whole lives and their only family. Growing up with Bella, I’ve had the experience every morning of seeing her “chatter” her teeth as a way of saying “feed me!” or inviting me to chase after her while she ran under the dining room table.  She injected so much life into my family.  For that I will be forever grateful.