By: Khaled AlZahrani (YES 2018-2019, hosted by AIFS/AYA in Corning, NY)
Few people know that before my exchange year, I used to be terrified of dogs and cats. A couple weeks before my departure, I was walking on the beach with my older sister, and we found a Siberian Husky. He was friendly and wanted to play with us, but since both of us were scared of dogs, we ran away. The dog followed us thinking that we were playing with him, and we ended up running for three blocks until we lost him.
From that day I was scared that I wasn't going to be a good fit for my host family. They have five pets including three dogs named Jenny, Rue, and Gussy, and three cats called Sassy, Willow, and Marty Meatball. My host family knew that I was afraid of dogs but they decided to take me regardless of my fear.
The first morning I woke up in my host family’s house, everyone was at work except me and Elijah, my 16 year-old host brother. We both woke up and were very hungry so I offered to make breakfast for the both of us. I went downstairs checking for the dogs, and thankfully they were in the backyard playing. While I was cooking and flipping the eggs on the stove, I started to hear footsteps and the sound of someone catching their breath. I turned around and it was Gussy jumping behind me to eat the food! I screamed, and my host brother came running downstairs thinking that there was an accident.
That was my first time meeting Gussy and the other dogs, but thankfully, I became a dog lover. I actually started to take the dogs on walks by myself, and that is how my life with pets started. We played every single moment we could, and sometimes I would actually take one of the dogs to my room and let him sleep on the bed with me. Now I'm seriously thinking about getting a dog or two in my house.
I'm so proud that I overcame my fear and got to live a whole year with such amazing pets. They're part of me now and I will always love them!