Boris and Nina

May 14, 2013  

Life’s most important lessons can be learned from dogs

By Cassandra Sloss

Boris and Nina came into my life at different times, but both made such an impact that they changed the direction I was going.

I am an individual living with a mental illness. Boris came to me at a time when I was unable to work, let alone take very good care of myself. At 8 weeks old, he helped take the focus off myself and the problems I was living with, and gave me the opportunity to make his life better and feel something I hadn’t felt in over a year: happiness. Little by little, focusing on his development helped me become more functional, because Boris gave us routine. Helping him grow and flourish was helping me get back into living my life as well. I was starting to go out and see people more because I was focused on socializing him to people, places, and things. Three months after taking Boris into my home I was out of the house every day, and on my way back to a functional lifestyle.

Fast-forward a couple of years – Boris was now a fully mature adult dog, and we were dealing with a lot of reactivity from him. It seemed like he didn’t get along with dogs at all anymore, so we spent a lot of time with just the two of us. I was sad and felt I had failed Boris because he was losing out on socialization with other dogs. That is, until I got involved in pit bull rescue. I’m a volunteer for Pitty Love Rescue in Rochester, New York, and offered to watch two fosters while the foster family was out of town. I agreed to crate and rotate, as I didn’t know how Boris would react, but to my surprise Boris and Nina got along very well. Boris had seemed depressed since we stopped playing with other dogs, and to my surprise I saw a transition in his mood to more like the one when I first got him. Boris had fallen head over heels for Nina and, not to my surprise, I had too. Nina is sweet and silly and doesn’t mind how rough Boris plays. Like Boris, she has a wild streak, but prefers a lazy afternoon cuddled up on the couch. They’re inseparable soul mates – and, well, they’re my soul mates, too. Is it possible to have a soul mate triangle? I’d like to think so.

Today we make up a very happy family. My fur kids have helped me maintain my recovery and have inspired me to pursue a career in dog behavior (I’m working and studying as a force free trainer now). Every day my dogs work with me as my motivators and teachers. I end every day with a new lesson: to take a minute to lounge around in the fresh air and get some grass stains. When I’m sad or stressed they’re always by my side as a gentle reminder to relax and pant a little bit and maybe lay on your back for a few. And that no matter how bad a mood you’re in, hamburger will always make you feel better.

Never in my wildest dreams would I ever imagine that life’s most important lessons learned so far would be taken from dogs. I guess I’m just one of the lucky ones.

Photos of Boris and Nina taken by Liliya Plotkina of Four Legs Photo.

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