I was always a bit hesitant around dogs. My parents say my aversion started back when I was five years old and a big one pushed me down into multiple feet of snow. I could barely breathe and ended up a bit traumatized. I slowly overcame my fear, but I never got over the feeling that I needed to be cautious around animals.
Still, I continuously asked for a dog growing up. I thought that having my own would finally make me a normal, dog-loving kid.
My dad was obsessed with dogs. My mom hated them. So, when they got divorced, I hoped my dad might see it as an opportunity to finally get a little furry friend. But he didn’t feel he could properly take care of a pet on his own, and that was that.
I’d pretty much given up on the idea of ever getting a dog by the time I reached my teenage years. I eventually left for college in St. Louis, coming back to New York every two months for breaks. And then COVID hit.
Quarantine reignited my desire for a canine companion. There’s only so much time one can spend watching dog TikToks without wanting one of their own. Nevertheless, six pup-less months went by, and I headed back to school. For the first time, I had no idea when I’d be home again.
So, of course, the universe did its thing.
Two weeks later, I got a FaceTime call from my mom, and there he was – an adorable French Bulldog. My mom and her fiancé decided to get him on a whim, naming him “Sababa,” a Hebrew slang word for “cool.” My reaction was a solid mix of, “He’s so cute!” and “Are you kidding me?”
I’ll admit, I was bitter. Years of asking for a dog, and then suddenly, after I’d left for an indefinite amount of time, Sababa arrived. When I finally came home in mid-December, I worried Sababa wouldn’t like me. Who wants some sweatpant-wearing stranger hanging around?
“Don’t worry,” my sister told me. “Sababa loves everyone.” And she was right.
Sababa instantly stole my heart. I’ve spent every second of the last week by his side, playing fetch and binging the Real Housewives together. I dangerously procrastinate my work to cuddle with him. And, on New Year’s, he was my midnight kiss.
Sababa has added such light to a dark time for my family. My sister has a companion during endless days of virtual school. My mom used to be grossed out by dogs’ mouths. Now she can’t wait to let Sababa lick her face when she comes home from work.
“I’m not a dog lover,” she says. “I’m a Sababa lover.” But I think she’s slowly growing to be both. And so am I.
Having Sababa has forced me to actually leave the apartment – or even just the couch. I never fully realized how much your world revolves around a pet once you get one, but I think that’s been a perfect way to develop some semblance of a healthy quarantine routine.
Oh, and my dad? He finally decided to get a dog of his own. But, of course, he won’t be getting it until right after I leave for St. Louis later this month. I guess that means another semester of living vicariously through puppy pics.