My dog and me: Friends for a life

An personal essay about my growing up with a dog in the family


Andres and Hunter in 2012. Photo Courtesy by Ivan Perez

Andres Perez, Community News Reporter

Although I was older than him when we met — I was 11 and my rescue dog, Hunter, was five months — it’s the opposite now.

I’ve reached my prime at 21 and he is an aging 65 in human years.

Every time his age shows with a hobble here or fall there, I think of how much he means to me or what he was like as a puppy.

Adopting Hunter

At the shelter, I remember seeing an energetic vibrant German Shepherd mix, white and golden brown. The shelter employees said they rescued him, along with his siblings and dad, from an abusive household and his name is Hunter.

My family and I were sold on the spot but we had to get him neutered first before taking him home.

Andres and his dog Hunter on the first day Hunter got brought home.
“Andres and Hunter, First Day Hunter was taken home circa 2011.” Photo Courtesy by Ivan Perez

“Try not to baby him too much,” I remember the vet telling me, “He just got out of surgery, so he’s just going to want all the attention he can get.”

On the car ride home, our new dog just laid on me the whole time, whining and sleeping and looking up at me with his beady little eyes. 

He came into the family with open arms awaiting him from my father, mother, two older brothers, and myself. We were all excited to take care of our new friend. 

A constant companion

He was my roommate for nine years of my life and became one of my best friends. While I slept in my bed every night, he was beside me in his dog bed.

Every morning we woke up together. We ate breakfast together, and he ate dinner with the entire family, positioned near our table by the window sill. My family got him accustomed to eating regular human food early on, so getting him to eat his kibble plain was difficult, so we always mix it with wet dog food now and he finishes the meal with scraps fallen off plates or whatever my mom or grandma don’t finish.

He was there for my happiest moments and comforted me during my darkest moments. No one in my life has seen me cry as much as my dog has — over my first heartbreak, the frustrations of my household, and the fear and anxiety of not knowing where I was heading in life.

After long days spent at school and work, Hunter was there to greet me and cheer me up when I needed it. He’d run over to me, rubbing his furry head along my legs and barking until I returned the affection by rubbing his back.

He was there for me during many sleepless nights growing up, times I spent trying to finish all my assignments. Hunter is a calming presence, sleeping peacefully through any noise I made on nights I was up late playing video games with my friends or talking on the phone with a girl I was dating.

Nearing the end

It’s strange how we both grew together, but he stopped growing at a certain point while I kept going. As I got taller, grew a beard, and gained weight, Hunter stayed the same height, weight, and his coat’s color never changed until recently it lost its brightness and got darker.

My dog has lived less time than me but is now effectively older than me. 

I wonder who he sees when he looks up at me. Does he still see the eager young child who clumsily cared for him? Or does he see the calmer, confident man I’ve grown into?  

Hunter sometimes slips while walking now because of his arthritis. Mid-stroll, his knees lock up and his legs give out on him. If he’s patient, he just lets his body fall and accepts his age. On bad days, he tries to fight his fall, furiously moving his legs to regain balance, before inevitably hitting the ground.

Andres kneels alongside his sitting dog, Hunter.
Andres and Hunter in 2011, First Month Hunter was home. Photo Courtesy by Ivan Perez

He can no longer jump on my bed on his own anymore. He puts his front legs up on my bed, and I push him up for a cuddle.

It makes me sad to see how old my dog has gotten and to realize he is nearing the end of his life. On average, German Shepherds only live about 9 to 13 years and Hunter is 11 years old now. 

There’s so much time left for me and so little for him. 

I’m thankful Hunter is in a very loving household and just hope he’ll enjoy his last few years in peace.

I sometimes wonder if he’ll think about me in his final moments when the time comes because I know I’ll think of him in mine.