My dog is not a terrible dog.

If I’m being honest, my dog is rather good. It pains me to admit this on days when he poops in the kitchen or pees on a rug — which he still occasionally does at 5 years old — but the fact is he’s a very good dog.

I adopted him after my sister and her husband found him, his brother, and their mom running across a highway in Covington. The mom and brother came easily, grateful for their new care and shelter. My dog, in a sign of things to come, eluded capture for 30 minutes.

They sent me photos of these three adorable dogs (he and his brother were puppies) and I knew immediately that I wanted one. I think at this point they had already decided to keep the mom, Luna, so the two babies were up for grabs.

…the other was shy and withdrawn. I knew the latter was my dog.

One was blonde and rambunctious. He had the playful energy needed to star in a Purina commercial, while the other was shy and withdrawn. I knew the latter was my dog.

My girlfriend and I named him Gambit Burrows. One part X-Men, one part nervous puppy burying his head into any blanket he could find. But if Gambit was nervous, I was terrified.

I called my sister in a panic when I found a tick, then removed it with surgical precision as she gave me instructions over FaceTime. For the first two weeks I bathed him every day. When most puppies smell like poop and rotten fruit (just making assumptions here), mine smelled of lavender and baby powder.

Gambit at bath time, approximately 3 yrs old
Gambit at bath time, approximately 3 yrs old.

When my fear eventually subsided, it was replaced with frustration at his predictable puppy behavior.

When he pooped on the carpet in my bedroom, poked his head through the vinyl panel of a window air conditioner (to watch the neighbors come and go), and ate half a plate of fried oysters, I thought for sure I could never raise a dog.

There were days when my frustration overwhelmed me, and our relationship was cordial at best. After one of his particularly brutal chewing sprees, we didn’t speak for months. But I’m happy to say the story doesn’t end there.

Over time — longer than I’d like to admit — my Grinch heart has grown and I’ve warmed significantly to Gambit. Experience has helped, but mostly I’ve learned from my loved ones that understanding and patience go a very long way (this applies to all things in life, not just your pets).

These days Gambit and I are thick as thieves. He is indisputably my very best friend in the world. I miss him during the day, I sleep next to him at night. I share his obnoxious excitement when I come home from work and we can finally do nothing but lie around cuddling.

I will say that Gambit is rather selfish. After a minute or two of cuddles, he rolls onto his back for belly rubs. When the belly rubs stop, Gambit leaves. But life is about compromise, and I accept the good with the bad.

I realize this might read like a tribute to a dead pet, but I write it as a humble thank you to my best friend (who thankfully is very much alive). There’s not a single doubt in my mind that I do not deserve this dog. It took me a long time to realize that. Now that I do, I try every day to earn the love that he gives me so freely.

A few days ago my brother-in-law told me that when I decided to adopt Gambit, he thought for sure I was making a mistake. He paused for a moment and said, “I no longer think that at all.” I’m happy to say that I don’t either.

Some photos of Gambit

If you’d like to see photos of Gambit, you can follow him on Instagram here.