My Best Friend

Ally Russell, a Scripps Ranch High School senior, is our writer for the 2015–2016 school year. She will share her thoughts about SRHS and life as a teen in our community. Ally is founder and president of the school’s Women in Literature Club and a member of the Spoken Word Club. She is also on the yearbook staff. She titles her columns “The Story So Far…” because high school is a time filled with so many firsts. She says that while high school is a time for change, she realizes that she and her peers are just beginning their lives.

As my senior year unfolds before me, I find myself straddling the fine line between childhood and adulthood. More often than I care to admit, my reactions to situations fall somewhere between these two responses. I can neither fully embrace the demands and responsibilities of adulthood nor completely let go of the safety net that childhood provides. As the days when my mom brings my forgotten lunch to school grow fewer, I more desperately reach to embrace the next part of my life. Growing up is easier said than done.

Rather than committing to childhood or adulthood fully, seniors are stuck in the uncomfortable position of trying to navigate both. As top dogs on campus, we are filled with a new found sense of confidence, while at the same time feel completely lost navigating the world of college applications. Expectations are shifting and responsibilities are piling high as we bid childhood farewell and look to the future.

No other situation has made me so acutely aware of how much I fall in between childhood and adulthood as the night my dog got out. My four-legged friend has been a steadfast member of the family for most of my life. Routines are shaped around letting dogs out and remembering to feed and walk them. You count on them to be your alarm clock, licking you awake in the morning, and keeping the neighbors up at night with their barking.

My tiny apricot poodle, Kiki, came into my life when I was in 3rd grade. After the traumatic death of her elderly owner, she shook and cried whenever we tried to get near her. Over the course of 10 years, my family has worked to provide a loving home for her. Now she is the friendliest dog on the block. Like any other pet she has developed her own set of quirks that we are forced to accept.

Kiki (with Ally above) has a long-standing rivalry with our gardeners and loves to be the first to welcome you home. She loves car rides until she realizes we are taking her to the groomer. She eats tissues and chews on everything. In the morning she prefers her breakfast with a side dish of raw Quaker oats and never realizes when there are leftover oats stuck on her nose. She is a shameless beggar and never mastered the art of fetch. Kiki is a lady of leisure but doesn’t understand the concept of sleeping in. Dog owners all have their own list of quirks that make their pup such a colorful member of the family.

Kiki has been there as each of my older sisters left for college and has kept our now small family of three cozy and loved. In the face of heartbreak Kiki was my number one supporter, canceling all her plans to lay with me and watch romantic comedies. She is such a present part of my life from early morning to coming home from school—every day is shaped around her. At almost 12 years old, she surprises everyone she meets, jumping three feet in the air to greet them as they enter our home. As a senior I counted on Kiki to be there for my parents when I went to college and be there when I came home. Things don’t always go according to plan.

Most homes in Scripps Ranch border or are close to canyons, great places to hike and take larger dogs to play. Canyons also house some less endearing animals, like coyotes. Many people know someone who has lost a dog or cat to these bold animals. In a perfect arrangement of circumstances, my sweet dog also fell victim to these infamous animals. A moment looking away is enough for a tiny dog to slip out the door on the one night a coyote was seen wandering the streets—perfect accident.

As a steadfast companion during most of my childhood, I was blindsided. Kiki always thought she was the toughest dog on the block. She came to us a bit too timid and left us a bit too bold. It’s one thing to hear about someone’s pet dying; it’s something else completely to have your best friend taken so suddenly. Without my consent, the most constant part of my life was ripped away from me, without the chance to say goodbye. While losing a pet may seem juvenile to some, I’m not ashamed to admit how heartbroken I am.

Like most things in life you have to pick yourself up and carry on. Despite being 11, Kiki was in great health and I expected her to be around for many years. If I had one more day with her, I’d give her lots of treats and tell her how much she means to me. In light of this event, I realize how fickle my surroundings are. Things I’ve grown accustomed to, like my friends and family being nearby, will be gone in a year. We have to work to recognize what is in our life today and appreciate it now, not tomorrow, not in a year.

The only thing we can count on in life is that things are always changing. Life is full of unexpected hiccups and bumps in the road. It is how we handle them that molds us into who we are. In a life that leaves so much out of our control we must work to embrace all the challenges. This year has been constantly pushing me to grow up and seize the next chapter of my life, but if this is growing up, I think I’d like to take my time instead.

Ally Russell, SRHS Senior