On why my kids will always have a pet

This past week, my dog [and best friend] of fifteen years passed away. Since then, I’ve been reflecting a lot on how having pets have affected my life. Sometimes when I need a good smile (or cry) I’ll look up videos of service dogs helping their owners. It always amazed me how amazing animals could be.

When I was really upset the day I found out my dog passed, my friend reminded me of something I had heard before. “Every one is born so that they can learn how to live a good life – like loving everybody and being nice, right? Well, animals already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.” It’s cheesy – but it’s true.

Dogs have been in my life for as long as I can remember. I always remember dogs running around and laying on the couch growing up. Savannah is definitely the most memorable of the many. It had been a little while since our two dogs had grown old and passed away, and our parents were finally ready to get another dog (because the house was just too quiet and lonely). So we went to the Humane Society in Charlotte with two rules: 1. Not a big dog 2. Not a dog that sheds. We came out with a black lab/Chow Chow mix – large and very furry.


Sorry, Dad. It was fate. I remember perfectly my brother and I running from cage trying to narrow down the choices and the precise moment we saw her for the first time. A volunteer at the shelter had just given her a bath and let us pet her while she was in her arms. We fell in love instantly. She was immediately the best friend I could ask for.

Over the next 15 years, as I grew up through the bad middle school haircuts and the broken hearts and the various phases, she was right there by my side. I could not have made it through those terrible years of my depression eating at my emotions. I would not have been able to get up in the mornings without her nose in my face. I would not have been able to fall asleep not crying without her furry butt cuddled up next to me.

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Choosing to leave the state for college was hard enough to do already, but knowing she didn’t know where I’d be disappearing to made it so much worse. I remember squeezing her so tight before I got into the car for the slowest four months of my life. That first reunion was so, so joyful and I constantly teased my parents about how it was fine to see them, but I really came back for the pup.

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The great thing about dogs is that they never seem to remember if you did anything wrong. No matter what happened at school or work, I always knew I could come home to someone who loved me no matter what I did. I read this article earlier this morning (and obviously bawled like I was watching The Fox and the Hound), but it reminded me of the way she would look at me. The great thing about dogs is that they can teach you so much by not trying to teach you anything. The great thing about dogs is that they appreciate everything you do so much. The greatest thing about dogs is that they never leave your side.

And that is why my kids will have dogs. My kids will learn to love and be loved by someone who is not myself. I can’t promise that I will love perfectly. But a dog will love perfectly.

Savannah, I love you so, so much. You taught me that it’s okay to be upset, but that I always have people to love me. You taught me how strong I am and how much I have conquered and can conquer. It will continue to hurt me forever that I wasn’t there to kiss your face and scratch behind your ear (that little part that had the softest fur on your body) when you took your last breath. I will never stop loving you and I will always miss you. Rest easy, babe.

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On Abnormally Normal Tuesdays

This past Tuesday was Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday). Sometimes I think it’s funny that Mardi Gras is actually just a one-day thing. Growing up, Mardi Gras was a season. It pretty much went from the beginning of January through the actual day of Mardi Gras (February/March depending on the year). The first week of January, we would take down our Christmas tree and take away the gingerbread cookies and replace it with King Cake and decorations of purple, green and gold. The next two months were full of going to Mardi Gras balls, parades, lugging around bags full of plastic beads and eating lots of fattening cake with plastic babies inside. The weeks leading up to it didn’t only mean all of these celebrations, but it meant not having school for a week (usually much needed by this point in the semester).

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Well, I had school on Tuesday. I didn’t have any plastic beads nor did I go to any parades. I didn’t gain an entirely new collection of plastic cups for my house or hear Mardi Gras Mambo even once. It was weird. For the first time in my life, the day before Ash Wednesday was just another Tuesday. I made a huge pot of jambalaya and a king cake from scratch to try to hold on to my typical traditions, but when I walked outside, there weren’t barricades lining the streets – just snow (lots and lots of snow). I had to fight the urge to cringe (or scream) when I overheard a guy in my class say something about “New Or-LEENS” day.

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Last year, even though I lived in Michigan, I was lucky enough to have my spring break coincide with Mardi Gras, so I went back home and it was like I had never left. This was my first time that my Mardi Gras Tuesday consisted of class…and work…and every other thing I do every other day of my life.

I didn’t think it would be that weird to be away from Louisiana on Mardi Gras, but it was. I felt like no one understood what day it was. It was almost like someone forgot about my birthday (or didn’t care enough to celebrate). I got overly excited about my king cake that I made and watched over my housemates’ shoulders as I waited for someone to find the baby.


(I mean look at that. Come on)

I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the fact that I live in a world that is completely different than the world I grew up in. As I was walking home from work that night, I thought, “Sydney, you do miss home, but think about how much you love this home.” Moving away doesn’t mean that you are always going to be alone in your traditions. (Shout out to Ben, my fellow Southerner, for bringing over his New Orleans bakery king cake for some good LSU conversation) It means that you gain new ones and teach other people new things along the way.


On Going Home

This past week, I visited home for the first time in seven months. My parents moved shortly before I went to college, so when I went “home” for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I was in a foreign place, as far as I was concerned. This week, I saw my best friends for the first time in a long time. At first, I was sort of nervous. There was so much that had happened in the past seven months. I’m a completely different person (or I would like to think that I am). I knew they were going to ask me to tell them stories, and I didn’t even know where to start.


As the plane descended into Baton Rouge, a city of my childhood that I hold close to my heart, I started to get emotional. The last time I had been there, I had been a different person. I had been so uncultured and sheltered compared to how I am now. The level of cheesiness only escalated when I started playing “Callin’ Baton Rouge” as we flew over Tiger Stadium and into the Metro Airport. I got off the plane and waited for my bag nervously. Then out of nowhere, four of my best friends came running at me and attacked me as if it had been years rather than months that we had been apart. We laughed and hugged, and headed back home.


As we were in the car chatting and laughing, I realized something: nothing had changed. Obviously, so much had changed, but not really.  We picked up right where we left off. It was like I had never left. We talked about our high school and our other friends like we were all still there with them. It boggled my mind that we could just pick right back up where we were when I left.

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One night, I was at my friend’s house and we sat there talking about an event that had happened three years ago. If someone were to have walked in on our conversation, they never would have guessed that it had been so long ago. It was like nothing was different about our lives now compared to our lives during our junior year of high school.

The concept of the passage of time always confused me, but I had never really thought about it much before. The fact that a few months can feel like years, or that a week can feel like no more than a day is pretty crazy to think about. More than anything, this week reminded me that I have such an amazing community to come back to no matter what happens. So, thank you to those people. You know who you are. You’re so special to me, and I wouldn’t trade our friendship for anything.


And when the day arrives I’ll become the sky and I’ll become the sea and the sea will come to kiss me for I am going home. Nothing can stop me now.
– Trent Reznor

On Moving Away

Moving away from family and friends is terribly hard and incredibly humbling. During my senior year of high school, I applied to eight different schools and I remember receiving the letters from all of them inviting me to study with them. After visiting Ann Arbor in February of 2013, I knew that I wanted to live here. It was new and different. It was beautiful and perfect. Shortly after returning home from my visit, I decided that the University of Michigan was where I wanted to be. It was a crazy decision. I would be moving to a state I had only been to once. I would be living with two girls who I had met on Twitter. I would be leaving behind everything familiar and everyone I loved. Most importantly, I would be moving away from Community Coffee, gumbo and SEC Football. (What even is the Big Ten?)

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The culture in Michigan was completely different than what I had grown up around for the past 18 years. Most of the people I meet have no idea how to peel a crawfish or what to do when it’s hurricane season. The number of times I have had to explain how and why drive-thru daiquiri places are somehow legal where I live is exponential. I remember one of my first nights in Ann Arbor, a girl I was talking to at a party said “Oh my gosh. You just said y’all. That is SO cute.” I knew immediately that I was in a completely different world. There have been a countless number of times that I have had to explain that, contrary to popular belief, there are lots of cities in Louisiana other than New Orleans, and that I actually don’t really live near it. The first time I heard a Michigander refer to Coke or soda as “pop” I think I almost cried. I still refuse to eat the “gumbo” and “po-boys” that the dining halls attempt to make for dinner. And don’t even get me started on the snow.

I miss Louisiana every single day, but living here has been life-changing. After that first visit last February, Ann Arbor has held a special place in my heart. I can remember being here during my first week, walking down East Liberty and seeing Michigan Theater in all of its beauty and thinking “Wow, I have GOT to Instagram this,” but also more sentimental thoughts like, “Wow. I cannot believe that I actually live here.” This perfect little town continues to amaze me and I fall more and more in love every day that I’m here. Sometimes I think about how I got here, and what made me finally decide to leave the familiarity of Lafayette. I think back on my last week there in August and how I had such a strange mix of emotions that I don’t think I even cried about leaving. I was excited and terrified, but also sad and so very happy all at once. Being in a new city all alone forced me to humble myself to ask for directions or even just ask for help. Living on a campus where I knew no one forced me to join clubs and to go out and socialize. Doing that allowed me to meet people from different states and even different countries. I’ve met some of the best people in the world here, and despite how much I complain about just wanting a Turtle Mochasippi (extra shot and whipped cream please) and an entire King Cake to myself, I would not trade the experiences I am having here for anything in the world.


So if I am trying to make a moral out of this story, it would be: just DO it. If you are considering it, DO it. If you want to study in a different state or a different country for a semester, DO it. If you want to use your spring break to go somewhere new, DO it. Life is short (no matter how cliché that saying is), and there is so much to see and experience before it’s over. I know you’ll miss home. You’ll miss familiar faces and you’ll miss your mom’s good food every night (Mom, please send me red beans and rice), but you will never regret doing something different and learning something new. Home will always be there for you when you want to come back, but the world is just waiting for you to venture out and experience it.


“It may be the satisfaction I need depends on my going away, so that when I’ve gone and come back, I’ll find it at home.” – Jalai ad-Din Rumi