I went to the animal shelter “just to look.” Which — if this were a horror movie — would be a real “don’t go into the basement” moment.
“Why are people in these movies so stupid? Don’t do it! There are too many good boys down there,” the audience would yell at the screen.
I thought I could handle it. Sure, I’d been jonesing for a dog since graduating from college, but I also knew I wasn’t ready. I’d lived in five states in three years. I liked going out late and sometimes ended up crashing with friends. “There’s no way I’m responsible enough yet,” I told myself.
Sure, I voluntarily walked into the shelter. But I was absolutely, one-hundred-percent not leaving with a dog. That was certain.
Narrator: She left with a dog.
Harold was a 12-week-old Great Dane mix. Black with a white chest and paws, like he was wearing a tux. He got so excited to see me when I walked toward his enclosure that he tripped over himself, giant paws tangling as he fell. Let me tell you something: you’ll never know how susceptible you are to going home with a rescue dog until you see some clumsy mutt with big, floppy ears skidding across the polished concrete in a frantic attempt to leap into your arms. The next thing I knew, I was signing the paperwork.
As nervous as I’d originally been to get a dog, I can’t imagine my life without Harold now. I was worried he’d take away from my adventures. Instead, he’s made them better. The two of us have jumped into a swimming hole in Austin together, climbed the hills of San Francisco, eaten deep dish pizza in Chicago (well… I did. Sore spot for Harold, I’m sure), hiked the Colorado Rockies, and road tripped to the Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree, and Zion. He’s been to more hot springs than a travel influencer.
Trips To The Beach
Have you ever seen a dog at the beach? They bound into the waves with unfettered enthusiasm. And watching them leap into the water to catch a ball or run up and down the shore is to witness pure joy, unfiltered.
Whether you decide to throw your pup a frisbee, go for a run, play a little beach volleyball, or surf, you have a companion who will never tire and will push you to go further, stay longer, and have more fun in and around the ocean. When it’s time to wind down, a dog is always up for a long walk on the beach with you at sunset — stick trailing out of his mouth.
I know, I know – that sounds like a cliche Tinder profile pic. And to that, I say, “That’s. Because. It. Works.”
Camping In The Wild
If you get a big dog, you’re sure to save money on sleeping bags. My 105-pound dog is more than happy to keep me warm by spreading completely out in the tent until I am squished against the nylon sidewall with no hope of a good night’s sleep. But whatever. When it’s your dog being a nuisance it’s not annoying, it just makes you laugh.
Canine sprawl aside, camping with a dog is the best. From walking through the woods to impromptu waterfall swims, a dog is down for pretty much anything you want to do. And at the end of the night — when you roast hot dogs over a campfire, drink in hand and your pup curled at the base of your camping chair — you’ll be glad to have a companion who’s down to chill and watch the stars.
Epic Road Trips
There’s no adventure more fitting in the heat of summer than hitting the open road and going where the wind takes you. A good road trip means stopping anywhere that looks fun, discovering kitschy diners and vintage roadside motels, and making friends in the cool, small-town bars on your overnight stops.
A dog helps you really savor that sort of journey. You have to slow down going from point A to point B because the dog is always going to have to pee or stretch its legs and that makes you stretch your legs and get out of the car too. Rather than simply driving eight hours straight, you’re suddenly looking for cool hikes or parks near the highway. Rather than gorging on fast food in your car, you buy groceries and eat outside in a forest or at a lookout. Whether you’re traveling solo or with friends, a dog gives you all the excuses you need to linger on your drive, and that leads to way cooler, more spontaneous experiences.
Backyard Cookouts & Parties
Before I got a dog, I was worried that having one would impede my free spirit. How do you go to an all-day party or an impromptu weekend away if you have to feed and walk a dog? But in the summer, that’s not a problem at all. A dog becomes your constant plus one.
As more of my friends get dogs, summer pool parties, backyard BBQs, and birthdays always include a few pups. We chill in the pool with a drink while our dogs tire themselves out swimming or we play lawn games at a park while the dogs run circles around us. You’re really doing a favor bringing your dog to the next backyard BBQ (ask the host if it’s cool, obviously) because all those poor souls who have yet to find their own rescue pups get to borrow yours for a few hours.
Hikes Of All Varieties
Living in Los Angeles, hiking has always been one of my favorite activities. I used to live at the base of Runyon Canyon, and the dog-friendly area always filled me with jealousy — all those people with their happy dogs when I was dog-less. Now, I take my dog along on literally all of my treks. I ascend the steep trail as fast as I can, lose my breath, and consider turning around. Every time I do, Harold runs ahead — ears flopping in the wind — and looks back at me with his “can you believe the world is so wonderful?” face.
And right then and there I decide to keep pushing for the top. With my dog leading the way.
I’m going to cut straight to it: meeting people in our modern era is… if not hard, then at least sorta weird. Tinder, Instagram, and Snapchat are fun but they only rarely lead to real connection. In order to build something, you have to find common ground.
A dog is that common ground. Whether you’re meeting someone while out on a walk, at a park, or at a dog-friendly bar, having a dog with you is an instant conversation starter. From there, it’s not long before you can ask, “you want to walk the dogs together sometime?” Boom. You’ve made a friend. Maybe even a romantic partner. Someone who knows you’re a good human right away because of how you treat your pet.
Dogs aren’t props, of course, they’re more like gregarious pals who will invite more people into your world. And if you want to go the Tinder route… well, they’re good helping out with that, too.
Ultimately, the magic of having a rescue dog in the summer is that they remind you to savor every second. They won’t let you chill on the couch all day. Instead, you’ll be motivated to get outside, spend time in the sun, go to the beach, hit the trails, and sleep outdoors. All of their energy, all of their fearlessness, all of their bliss — a rescue dog is practically an adventurer’s life coach.
Harold reminds me to live every summer day to its very fullest. And that’s a pretty priceless gift, given to me again and again by my rescue dog gives, summer after summer.