I even remember the first day I saw her.

My teenaged sister (hereafter referred to as The Teenager) bought Mini-me a betta fish kit – which, if you knew The Teenager, you’d know it’s pretty impressive that she’d buy anything for anyone other than herself… no shade to her, it’s just how teenagers are – but we’d spilled the food and needed to replace it. If The Teenager was going to grow up being the kind of sister who did nice, unexpected things for my baby, the least I could do is help keep it going.

We walked into the local Petsmart, and snapped up the fish food. On the way out, though, was where we saw the sign (and it opened up our eyes…): “Dog Adoptions Saturday.”

Apparently, one of the local rescue agencies would be bringing their dogs for display that weekend, and people could come and apply to become a pet parent. I didn’t know much about the process, but I knew I loved dogs and thought it’d be a great experience for three year old Mini-me. What kid doesn’t love growing up with a big giant lovable dog?

That following Saturday, I brought Mini-me and The Teenager with us, and that… was when I saw her. Her sheet said “Sushi, Alaskan Husky/German Shepherd Mix.” She was this bright ball of light brown, curled up in a ball in a crate much too large for her and obviously a bit shaken up from the bumpy ride to the pet store… that is, until Mini-me leaned down toward the crate to “talk to her.” There, she unfolded, crept to the edge, sniffed her and, tail wagging, licked her finger.

Sold.

Because she was a puppy, they wouldn’t let her out of her crate unless we were seriously applying for her. The process required two weeks worth of a wait between application and actual purchase of the dog, which we were fine with. But after I finished that application, they handed her off to me.

The day we brought Sushi Flower home.

And, it felt like another addition to our little family. Like, she’s awesome.

Until I got her in my house.

It took a while before I figured out why it felt like the toilet paper was disappearing twice as fast…

Yes...that blur of blonde fur would be Sushi...and my toilet paper.

…or why my shoelaces kept disappearing…

…or why I always heard constant running throughout the house…

Now, I love my dog... but tell me she doesn't look batsh-t crazy right here.

…or even why things were always toppling over…

Again...nuttier than squirrel sh-t.

…but I eventually figured it out. It was Sushi!

I won’t even talk about the fact that adopting a husky resulted in literally being dragged across the block, because she put on her full tilt, full speed, sled dog swag as soon as she got out of the front door. Let’s just say that I’m pretty sure, at one point, I was airborne. Feet off the ground. It was major, and she wasn’t even a year old yet.

But…once she did become a year old, I wound up being gifted with another dog, from The Mister.

Enter Sala…

…a two year old Rottweiler and Husky mix. She’s basically a blue-eyed rotty… so, in other words, she’s scary looking. I’m pretty sure I hear the word “Cujo” at least twice a week as we walk past people.

I remember the day I picked Sala up to bring her home, and I won’t even lie. I was scared to death of her. She was huge, and scary looking. That is…until I saw this:

The Dog Whisperer...and Cujo.

At first, she was just a silent and mildly shaking dog… but Mini-me, also known as The Dog Whisperer, turned Sala into the world’s biggest teddy bear.

Again, sold.

It’s been a year, so far, with both of them and I’ve got to tell you…I don’t know what my life would be like without them. That being said… let’s run down five great reasons why adopting a dog will keep you fit:

1) Your big scary dogs can help you feel safer in your community. Not only is there the added feeling of “get the hell out of my way” when people clear the sidewalk for you and your big scary dog, not only do you feel like your big scary dog may ward off any danger bothering you on your walk? But anyone who sees you around and knows the area where you live will also know “Nah, man, she’s got those big giant dogs in there.. I’m not trying to get ate up.” They help ward off the idea of unwanted visitors. I’m almost certain that having your own big giant Sala is more effective that those ADT signs. (That’s one of those “laughing but I’m kinda serious” jokes.) Teach your dog to act “ratchet” on command outside, too? Listen. No one will want to be near you on the sidewalk. They’ll think your dogs are out of control, and will leave you alone.

2) More action! More activity! What I eventually learned the hard way was that all dogs aren’t simply “lap dogs.” Dogs have varying levels of energy, and you, as their owner, have to ensure that they’re getting activity that meets or exceeds their needs. It wasn’t until I realized that Sushi needed to be worn the hell out that she calmed down, stopped treating my toilet paper like a tasty snack, and actually became the chill dog that’s wrapped up underneath my chair as I type this. It’s one thing to have one husky. It’s another thing to have two. I had to start pulling five mile-a-days just to get my dogs to stop beefing with my furniture and, eventually, on those in-between days when I just couldn’t do 5milers back to back? I had to learn how to rollerblade and just let them drag me across Miami Beach. They went from high energy… to this:

Sala and Sushi, worn out after seven miles on the boardwalk. Look at the defeat in their eyes...they are DONE FOR!

…which leads me to my next point…

3) If you don’t walk them… they will let you know you’re slippin’. Hell hath rain down upon your household. Incessant barking. Missing toilet paper. Everything will be flipped upside down. You might even find a dog on your counter (or maybe it’s just Huskies?) looking down on you. I won’t get into “pack mentality” in detail, but if you don’t walk your “pack” often, then you don’t get to reinforce that you run “the pack” and nobody looks down on you…or takes your damn toilet paper. You wind up having to hit those miles simply because your house will be in shambles if you don’t. To hell with not going out for a walk because you lack motivation… your home looks like a tornado hit it. How’s that for “motivation?” Walk the dog, and wear ’em out while you’re at it!

A much more chill, older Sushi...and thank goodness for that.

4) Endless laughter. And I do mean endless. Dogs can be instant stress relief. You’ve got this cute little living thing that, if you put effort into him or her, will fetch your ball, your slippers, your remote, your beer… all that. You can play frisbee with him. You can even roughhouse with your dog. You can even watch them dart across the dog park (after you walked your pooch there, of course) chasing another dog or a bird or goodness knows what. There’s very little in life more hilarious than watching an 80lb dog hop up in the air 18 inches off the ground trying to grab a toy you tossed in air.

5) Learning how to train dogs is the most valuable lesson in patience one could ever experience. So much of dog training, at least for us, has been about controlling not only the dogs’ energy but our own energy, as well. It teaches you how to change the different elements of confidence that you might not think about. It teaches you a lot about how overreacting rarely solves anything other than wasting time – dogs rarely respond desirably to it, so you simply get out of the habit of doing it. It also helped Mini-me with her confidence and comfort level with animals, and had a great influence on her social skills at a young age. Just like teaching a non-speaking being to respond to verbal commands is a challenge for the dog, it is a challenge for the human as well. Patience becomes a virtue that you are rewarded for with a well-behaving dog. We had to get this down pat with Sushi, especially before Sala came around, otherwise my dogs would’ve been scrappin’ all day.

Like I said before, I’m a huge advocate for animal shelters because these are the people who do the work of rescuing animals that might otherwise be a nuisance – Sushi was a part of a litter of five left on the side of the road, and only her and her sister, Sunni, survived the entire ordeal – as opposed to breeding inbred toy dogs and attaching a hefty pricetag to them. I strongly urge anyone considering adding a dog to their family to check out their local pet store and find when they’ll be having their next adoption fair, and do a lot of researching and soul searching to consider how adding a dog to your family would add to your life.

I’d also suggest, before you get your dog, checking out the Mastering Leadership series. I love them all, use them religiously and revisit them once a year to make sure we’re not slipping on our dog handling. It’s to the point, now, where Mini-me can and will walk Sala, and Sala follows, not drags her across the Earth.

Whose dogs are keeping them fit out there? Did I miss something? Speak up!