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Guest Column: Jonny and his pup General Sherman

My mom raised beagles growing up. They shed a ton. There were always 5 or 6 running around our house...and when one started to howl, they all joined in. I was in high school, so I mostly ignored them. They were fun to pet, but it got to a point where I was busy with sports so I never really remembered all of their names. My mom was a stay-at-home parent, so I never had to take care of them. She would sell a couple and keep a couple, so it was never quite the same little pack. I think because we had so many running around, I never felt the need to get close to any of them.

My priorities? Sports and every other guy in high school.

My last year in school, I noticed that one of the dogs started to sleep under my bed. It was messy under there, so I guess he built a little nest out of some laundry and spare linens. About a month into sleeping in my room, I noticed that he started coming out and staring at me as I worked at my desk. Whether I was doing a paper or wasting time on social media, he watched my every move.

There was a point when I was so busy with football that I starting sleeping at a friend's house. He lived right next door to school. This made 6 am workouts much easier. A week went by and my mom made me come home. She said, "your dog is absolutely throwing a fit that you're gone. He howls around 9 each night and won't leave the room."

My dog?

Shamefully, I had to ask what the dog's name was. She said she'd been calling him Blue because he'd been wearing the same blue collar since birth.

I came home after school that day and went straight to my room. I had to sort out this little intruder that was laying claim to my space. I swung the door open and immediately heard shuffling under my bed. Blue popped out dragging his belly and, excitedly, made his way to my feet. I knelt down and gave him a few scratches.

He seemed nice enough so I decided he could stay. As I turned to leave the room, Blue followed close to my heels. All the way downstairs. All the way to the living room. All the way to the couch where I slumped into the cushions. I watched as he circled under the couch a few times and settled in. He popped his nose out to watch me.

Over time, General Sherman started to wear me down. Yes, General Sherman. He was so nice to me, but kind of a jerk to anyone else. If any of the other pups came into his territory under the couch or under my bed, he was going to war. Whenever I was home, he was right behind me. I don't know why he did it, but this pup decided I belonged to him.

We started going on runs together, I gave him pieces of my dinner, and he whined every time I was away. He was now my dog, and I couldn't sleep without him at the foot of my bed.

It is now 7 years later, and General Sherman and I have visited 5 countries, all 50 U.S. states, and even lived in Canada for a short while together. I'm slightly embarrassed to say this, but he loves riding around my small hiking backpack when I'm commuting from NJ to NYC. His little snout has turned grey recently and I realized that he's not a little pup anymore.

There comes a point where your pet can go from an accessory in your house to a companion, travel partner and confidant. General Sherman is more than my dog, and my life is better because of him. In difficult times or when the world gets rough, he's always there with bright eyes and a wagging tail.

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