Why a cat person would ever choose to adopt a dog by Pamela Mirabelli

Stormy and I 2Pamela Mirabelli serves as the Residence Life Coordinator for the Historic Horseshoe at the University of South Carolina, Columbia. Originally from New Jersey, Pam received a BA in Psychology with a concentration in Clinical/Counseling from The College of NJ and a Master of Education in Children’s Literature from Penn State. Prior to starting at Carolina, Pam has previously worked at The College of NJ, Penn State, The School of American Ballet, and Seton Hall University. In her spare time, Pam enjoys yoga, reading, the beach, travelling, visiting friends, and spending time with her adopted Italian Greyhound Mix Stormy.

Why a cat person would ever choose to adopt a dog

I have always been the “cat person” among any of my groups of friends. I am a self-proclaimed introvert, enjoy my “Pam time”, and have had cats (2 to be exact) as pets previously. When I couldn’t have any pets while working at a previous institution, I volunteered at a local animal shelter and after one day on the dog side, immediately asked to be switched to the cat side. The gentle purring was a pleasant and needed change from the loud rambunctious barking of the dog side. During this most recent job search, ensuring I was allowed to have a pet was not on my “must have” list. However, when I had my on campus interview at Carolina it was a pleasant and welcome surprise to learn I could have a cat OR a dog under 35 lbs. It wasn’t one of the main reasons I chose to come to work here, but it certainly was a check in the pro column.

After moving 11 hours from Jersey and settling into my Carolina apartment I turned to searching for a pet with my usual single minded focus. I researched local animal shelters, visited Petsmart to price out items, and was a regular on Petfinder. I also stepped out of my comfort zone and volunteered to dog-sit my coworker’s dogs. I was still initially swinging between adopting a dog or a cat and since I had never owned a dog thought this would be the best way to learn not only if I actually liked it, but also could do it. I will be honest in saying there were some frantic phone calls to friends due to what they would explain are “typical” dog behaviors. After taking some calming breaths I would be able to see their point of view and not feel as frantic about being in over my head. Always by the end of my time with my furry visitor I felt like I had finally started to understand this whole “dog as an enjoyable pet” concept. This continued throughout the Fall semester and I felt like I had settled on focusing my search on a spaniel mix and/or a cocker spaniel as my future pet.

While home for the holidays and again on Petfinder, I found a 9 month old male cocker spaniel. I think to myself “I have found the one!” Not too young, but not too old, already spayed, housebroken, and crate trained…sign me up! I’m about to email the rescue group when I decide to see what other animals the rescue group has available. There in the middle of the first page are the cutest brown eyes peering out of a crate with a pink bandana around her neck. I click on “Weezie’s” picture and read about how she had recently been spayed after having puppies. I keep going back to her and the cocker spaniel’s picture and ultimately decide to inquire about both animals. Fast forward 3 weeks and I am driving 2 and a half hours to the other side of South Carolina to meet “Weezie”. It was like going on a blind date. I had brought a new dog toy as a gift and a co-worker along for my moral support. We arrived at the neutral location first and I had butterflies in my stomach. The foster parents pulled up behind us and “Weezie” jumped out of the car. We both got out to introduce ourselves and she padded right up to me to say hello. As soon as our eyes met I knew “Weezie” was it.

Much to my co-worker’s dismay I chose to wait a week to get my apartment completely set-up for Weezie…new bowls, crate, food, toys, everything was in place and I was ready to head out bright and early Saturday morning. Only the Carolina skies were not so bright, they were full of dark, ominous clouds and torrential downpours. After a couple of hairy moments, I made it, signed the paperwork, and “Weezie” was on her way home with me. At this point I’m sure you are thinking she jumped in my arms, settled right in, and everything was rainbows and butterflies. If only….

Weezie, now renamed Stormy after the multiple storms I drove through to pick her up, vomited twice in my car and twice more in my apartment before retreating into the safety of her new crate. She wouldn’t stop vomiting at least once a day for over 2 weeks. After taking her to the vet for what I believed to be a basic check-up, the reality was it turned into the start of bi-weekly vet visits to get her updated on all of her shots because her vet records were incomplete. She also had 2 sets of worms which we stopped the second round of treatment for in April and is now officially worm free. She had been abused by her first owner so it took her almost 2 months for her to come to the realization she didn’t need to cock her head to the side preparing for a hit every time she wanted to be petted. As for icing on the cake, I broke my toe 2 weeks after adopting Stormy and we had 2 consecutive ice/snow storms in Carolina within a 2 week span making walks an “adventure” to say the least.








Why did I just tell you this story and how does it relate to fitness/health you may be asking? Adopting Stormy and the past 9 months have been some of the most trying, stressful, and gray hair producing of my life. They have also been some of the most rewarding, selfless, and fulfilling months of my life. Stormy has forced me to have a better work/life harmony. Most days during lunch I head back to my apartment for quality Stormy/Pam time and a short walk. After work, I head home for our dinner, another longer walk, and whatever the night has planned, which sometimes includes Stormy attending my weekly team meeting or programs. Over the course of our walks, I have been able to interact more and be more visible with my residents. While her multiple vet visits were not anticipated nor fun, they have rehoned my budget skills and I now am an avid coupon or survey discount taker.

In addition, to see the dramatic change not only physically, but emotionally and socially in Stormy has been amazing to watch. No longer is she the scared little dog who makes herself vomit because she has anxiety if someone pets her. In contrast, she is the little dog I am holding back because she wants to be petted and say hi to EVERYONE we pass on our daily walks. She finally knows and remembers the other dogs around campus and recently has started to actually initiate play with them. She won’t ever be a cuddler, but she worms her way across the couch more nights then not while we watch TV so I can scratch her favorite spot behind her ears. Does she still have her nervous quirks and tendencies? Absolutely! She does not like to share her momma or her spot on the couch. She hates anyone clipping her nails and the car will always be a source of anxiety for her. But like anything in life, the good should outweigh the bad and having Stormy, quirks and all, makes my life more well-rounded, balanced, and cheerful. I may not be a “dog person”, but I am Stormy’s person and that’s all that matters to me.


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