The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Woman’s Best Friend
My dog Prissy makes me happy
Chimore Mack

Prissy was just a puppy when my foster mother first brought her home. Little did I know how that dog would change my life.

She is a curly-haired poodle-shih tzu mix, white with black patches. My foster mother named her Señorita Thickness because of her full hair. She had a brother named Oreo, and they seemed to be opposites. Oreo was obedient while his sister was nothing but trouble.

The first day I wanted to walk her to see if she’d interact with me. But she just sat there. “Señorita Thickness, get up,” I said in an encouraging voice. She didn’t budge. She stood there with an expression like, “Honey, you’re not my owner so I don’t have to listen to you.”

So I carried her, shaking my head. I decided to call her Prissy because of her stuck-up personality. A week later, my foster mother decided she couldn’t handle her; she was yelling at her and comparing her to her brother Oreo, the obedient one.

“I don’t want this dog in my house,” she screeched.

image by YC-Art Dept

“You just had her for like a week. Why you want to put her in the street?” I asked.

“Because she makes accidents everywhere. She’s wild. She doesn’t listen when I call her. I can’t handle her. Maybe someone else wants her.”

Give Her a Chance

I felt bad for Prissy. She’d just come to the house, and I felt that she was a good dog and that nobody had given her a chance. It reminded me of how people in foster care feel when someone doesn’t give them a chance when they first arrive in a home; they have to be comfortable first. I felt that I could take care of Prissy since I bonded with her.

“I can take care of her. You should let her upstairs so that she and Oreo can have their own space. She and Oreo are the same breed, but they have very different personalities; you can’t really compare them. She just needs more patience,” I said.

image by YC-Art Dept

My foster mother then asked the other girls in the house if they wanted her upstairs. They agreed because they were in awe of her beauty—they called her Fendi. I was so happy. Although I had wanted a golden retriever, I knew that my relationship with Prissy was going to last.

When she came upstairs, it was hard taking care of her, because she didn’t like being in the house by herself. She would paw at the door, leaving marks. She would also make accidents, including on the other girls’ beds. I would pop her when she did something wrong.

Then I realized it was wrong to hit her. I felt guilty about it; there are other ways to teach a pet a lesson. To punish her now, I don’t give her any dog treats or don’t let her go out until she understands what she did wrong.

We Bonded

It was hard for Prissy to bond with me because she didn’t trust anyone. She wasn’t comfortable yet because she’d been living in another home until my foster mother got her. However, over time she grew to trust me. I walked her and taught her to sit and to use the wee-wee pad, a two-foot-square, thick cloth pad for dogs to do their business on when they’re inside.

image by YC-Art Dept

It reminded me of when I first went to my foster home. I didn’t trust anyone. It took me a while before I made a friend in the house who I could trust. So I gave Prissy time.

After six months, Prissy started using the wee-wee pad, and I was so proud of her. She stuck so close to me when I walked her that I stopped using a leash (even though you’re supposed to). Lots of dogs bark whenever they feel territorial or want to play. Prissy only barks if it’s something serious such as my safety when I walk her at night or when someone knocks on the door. I like that she doesn’t bark at every little thing.

I started calling her “my child.” People would laugh but I did not care. Having Prissy around was very comforting when I aged out of foster care. During that time, I felt stressed and lonely. Although I knew I could talk to people, I became withdrawn after I moved into my own place and I didn’t really tell people how I felt.

I was going through so much, trying to go back to school, and it was overwhelming. I needed to find my comfort zone, and Prissy helped me do that. Whenever I got upset, I’d walk her and calm down. I felt relieved being able to play and bond with her.

Doggy Language

image by YC-Art Dept

My relationship with Prissy is like the cartoon Adventure Time with the boy Finn and his dog Jake. They always go on adventures, and their relationship has a special dynamic like Prissy and me. They understand each other, are loyal to each other, and protect each other. The only difference is that Jake talks, while Prissy tells me in body language what she wants.

If she comes near her bowl, that means she wants something to eat. If she doesn’t drink from her water bowl, it means that she wants her water changed. She loves when I comb and brush her hair. I sometimes tell her when I finish doing her hair to “shake your tail-feather,” and she does shake. I groom her and always tell her to “be still” since she likes to move around a lot.

Since she doesn’t like the toothbrush, I buy her dental sticks to remove some of the plaque and tartar build-up. She can get gum disease if her teeth aren’t taken care of. I made sure that she’s licensed and that she has all of her shots.

She hates when I go out. I sometimes feel bad because she gets the saddest look on her face like, “Why you have to go out now? Why can’t you just stay with me all day?” When I walk her, it’s hilarious how she tries to rush me out of the house. As soon as I take the leash off the doorpost, she starts jumping up on my leg, wagging her tail, and jumping in the air.

Prissy makes me physically healthier because she gets me moving. I walk her for 30 minutes to an hour depending upon how nice the day is. I burn a lot of calories walking her. Every time I put a song on and dance to it, she dances with me. She wags her tail and starts jumping. She loves all types of music.

Taking Care of Each Other

Although she can’t talk to me with words, with actions she expresses how she feels. I realized that she and I have similar personalities: We both take our time to bond with people. I am starting to learn from her to show people how I feel instead of hiding it.

I think about how my foster mother didn’t give her a chance, about how she judged Prissy without giving her time to adjust. I pushed her to learn how to use her wee-wee pad, and she achieved that goal. I feel that if I push myself and become motivated then I can do anything.

A pet can be a good companion for people living by themselves (as long as you’re prepared to be responsible and care for your pet). I am very grateful that Prissy is in my life because it can be lonely with nobody around. I’ve learned that a relationship with a pet can be very strong. Believe me, they will care for you back.

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