Adopted Dog and his Pet Mom Find Their Purpose Together

A dog named Koda and his pet mom Mackenzie learn how to trust and embrace life fully, side by side.

Mackenzie + Koda

Mackenzie wanted to help a previously abused dog named Koda get a chance at a loving, caring life. In adopting Koda, Mackenzie also found a renewed sense of purpose and love of life.

"He had trust issues; I had trust issues. He was socially inept, so was I. I thought I was saving him from being repeatedly returned by families who couldn't handle his issues. Turns out, he was saving me just as much as I was him."

I work for a police department that removed Koda from a severe abuse situation when he was 3 months old. He’d lived through a lot of mental and physical damage. His odds of getting adopted and staying homed were pretty slim but our local SPCA does a great job of matching animals with families. I kept telling myself Koda would be put with the perfect family but I couldn’t get him off my mind. Long story short, the day he came off hold, I walked out of work and went to fill out adoption papers. He had trust issues; I had trust issues. He was socially inept, so was I. I thought I was saving him from being repeatedly returned by families who couldn’t handle his issues. Turns out, he was saving me just as much as I was him.

I was at a pretty dark stage in my life. I didn’t feel like I had a purpose or a reason to be alive. I was going through the motions daily, but they didn’t mean anything. Suddenly, with Koda in my life, I had someone depending on me. I had to get up and get dressed and take him for walks. I had to work to help him. I had to make sure he had a schedule and would learn that I could be trusted. It took patience and focus and it gave me a purpose… even when I didn’t realize how badly I needed one. 

I had no option of waking up alone or sleeping all day; instead, there would be puppy pounces and demanding howls for attention. He taught me that not everyone’s “love language” is the same. He isn’t a cuddler or a dog who loves pets. But I’ve taught him and he’s taught me more than any human ever has. I would have missed so many mountain sunrises if he hadn’t dragged me out of bed at 5 a.m. every day. (No, really: Every. Day.) He has taught me to love exploring again. He’s reminded me to live and heal and run after little things with reckless abandon (his preference is OMG SQUIRRELS).

Koda is not particularly good at being a typical dog. I’m not that great at being a functional adult. But we accept and love each other in our own way. He went from living in terror in a tiny cage to running around the mountain like a mountain goat. I went from living in a small corner of my existence, locked up by my own hesitation, to remembering how much I love nature photography and adventuring on trails I wouldn’t have hiked without Koda. We unlocked each other and I try every day to take advantage of that new freedom.

Each year, Petco Love Stories invites adopters to share how their pets have changed their lives to give the organizations that they’ve adopted from the chance to receive grant awards. This story by Mackenzie won Rockingham-Harrisonburg SPCA in Harrisonburg, Virginia a 2021 Love Stories award.