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2017, what a time to be alive! It’s kind of a little bit like that feeling you get when you’re in a creepy, isolated house with lots of glass windows at nighttime // you don’t want to look outside because it’s terrifying, but also, you should probably do it anyway just in case there is a psychopathic murderer standing in the woods. A REAL SOPHIE’S CHOICE, Y’KNOW?! It’s enough to drive any decent human being mad, so we’ve decided to ask friends and other cool people to give their two cents on how to remedy the insanity with self-care, whether it’s through YouTube videos, pictures of puppies, pizza…WHATEVER! 

Today’s sanity advice comes from BYT’s own Jonny Grave! Here’s what he has to say:

What’s keeping me sane? My dog.

About six weeks ago, my girlfriend and I decided we were ready to adopt a dog. New York Avenue’s Humane Rescue Alliance (formerly the DC Humane Society) is a shelter in Northeast that serves as a pet adoption center. Maryjo, my partner, made a cursory visit to the shelter “just to look” without me, and wound up falling in love with a short female “boxer mix.” Most of you can probably guess how the rest of the story goes from here.

I made a visit to the shelter by myself, to meet the dog my girlfriend loved, but also to see what other dogs they had. Stella’s pen was empty, but there were a dozen other dogs to look at. Tesla, the little heterochromatic feist mix, a giant white labrador, and a slinky-looking doberman all caught my eye. But after ten minutes of confusedly looking at other dogs, the back door of the hallway opened up, and in came Stella, tongue out, tail wagging, happy as hell to see me. This is the first time we ever met.

I should mention here that Stella is a pit bull mix, and not a “boxer mix.” She was likely labeled a “boxer mix” to avoid any legal issues during the adoption process. In 1996, pit bulls were banned in Prince George’s County. While pits are currently legal in PG, and Maryland law has caught up to the fact that pit bulls are not inherently dangerous, there is is still a strong stigma against that particular breed. Quite personally, I am of the belief that there is no such thing as a “bad dog”; just shitty people.

The staff at Humane Rescue Alliance, who are marvelous people, have built a little “backyard” into the complex, which allows prospective dog owners the space to run around with their maybe-future-pet. I took this stocky, brindle-colored dog into the yard, and waited to see what she would do. She sniffed around a for a moment or two, inspecting the territory. When I sat in a nearby lawn chair, and whistled I swear to god, just once, she came running toward me, into my hands, hoping I would pet her more. I knew, from the very moment I met her, this dog was something special, and I had to take her home.

Six weeks later, Stella has proven to be the best dog I could have ever hoped for. She likes to be pet and scratched regularly. This is actually paramount to her very existence; all she wants is pets, scratches, cuddles, and love. She sleeps on her back from time to time, and lets her paws twitch mid-air as she dreams. She only barks at squirrels.

The very first night we took her home, I put her on the couch next to me, and turned on a movie. Halfway through, I shifted weight, which startled her. Stella looked up at me, brown eyes staring into mine, calm, and saying “hey, human– this is nice. No, really, this is comfy, and pretty great. Please don’t fuck this up.”

She keeps me grounded, and reminds me to be a good human.