Until I was 40 years old, I was a botanical field researcher and constantly on the move, so much so that I seldom bothered to have an actual residence. I was also an only child and did not marry until I was 49 -- a fiercely-independent streak is a fundamental part of my makeup. Where would a dog fit into this picture?
Yet something in this untethered lifestyle never really worked for me. I was depressed for much of my early adulthood -- not clinically so, as I could still function, but I was miserable more days than not, often for weeks at a time.
In 1982, a longtime friend -- one of those rare, priceless people who can see gaps in your emotional life that are invisible to you -- gave me a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy as a birthday present. I told her, gently, that it was utterly inappropriate; my life was far too unsettled. She thrust the puppy in my arms, looked me in the eye, and said, "This will help to settle you."