Well today my three-year-old daughter pretty much summed up life. She said, “When you turn into a grownup you have to do tricky stuff.” As kids you don’t even ever really think about just what all the “tricky stuff” ever entails either because a) you’re a clueless kid and b) if you have good parents they tend to shield you from the tough stuff.
Well this past weekend was one of those tricky adult situations for my husband and I. It started off great. We had a date night where we drank too much awesome beer and ate too much awesome food. But the best part was yet to come – we were going to be able to sleep in! However around 2 a.m. I got my first wake-up call when my dog barked as she needed help up. Ok, sure. I was sort of getting used to these barks as they were becoming more frequent. So I helped her up and didn’t think much of it. Then around 4 a.m. the same thing happened. Only this time she wanted outside and refused to come back in. She looked awful, and I began to fear the worst. I got my husband to help carry her back inside and we both sat with her, afraid to leave her side. Eventually we attempted to go back to bed even though I merely laid there willing my dog to peacefully drift away on her own. But around 7 a.m. we heard her bark again and we repeated the process. She went out in the snow, lied down and refused to get back up. At this point, the tears were flowing, and we pretty much knew what we had to do – you know that whole tricky adult thing where you’re forced to make awful decisions that you know are the right thing yet every bone in your body screams “No!” Yeah, that.
Now even as I’m writing this I get that it sounds like I’m talking about a person. And for anyone who isn’t a dog/pet lover, they probably think I’m crazy. And maybe I am, but these dogs and these pets are more than just animals to most of us. They become a huge part of the family. Desota, in particular, was my husband’s and my first pet as adults. We got her shortly after we were married and she was our baby. We trained her (well, we tried, she kind of flunked out of puppy school.) We scolded her when she ate pair after pair of my flip flops and at least three remotes. We panicked and chased her down when she ran away. And we found out when she was sneaking things while we were away at work. We basically went though all the same things with her that we’ve gone through with our three kids – well except maybe not the flip flop part. But overall, Desota was the starting foundation for our family.
I’ll never forget bringing home Jaycob for the first time. Desota was very curious and very anxious. She knew that something was different but wasn’t quite sure what. She paced the entire night of his first night home. But after that, she never left his side. With each kid we brought home, unfortunately she received less and less attention. But she adjusted and continued to love on all three of them. They climbed on her. They pulled her hair. They fell on her. But she never even flinched and was always rewarded with plenty of spilled food and snuggles. Even up until recently when she no longer was sleeping upstairs with us, any night there was a storm she would pace and whimper all night unless I left the kids’ doors open so she could go into their rooms and check on them. She was the most loving and kindhearted dog any family could ever hope for. She helped raise my kids, and like my aunt said, I suppose she did kinda sorta help raise me too.
Maybe I’m slightly biased being raised as a veterinarian’s daughter, but in my opinion, dogs, and just animals in general, are such an important part of growing up. They provide unconditional companionship and love. They teach responsibility. They help clean up your floors. And eventually they help with processing the biggest lesson of them all – the circle of life. At 41, I’m still struggling with that lesson.
Sure they’re a pain in the ass at times. I can’t even begin to describe the amount of hair that floats through my house. I’ll be cleaning that up for years to come. They cost a lot of money. They require a lot of maintenance and care. And when they’re gone you’re left with a giant-sized hole in your heart. But you know what? It’s all worth it because I’m also left with 13 years of memories. And no amount of grief can erase all the good that we got from her. I can only hope that our next dog, whenever that may be, will be half as good as she was. (And yes, I’m already Googling puppies…do NOT tell my husband! It’s for therapeutic grieving purposes only. Wink. Wink.)
Rest in peace, Desota. January 10, 2006 – April 28, 2019.