Thirteen years ago, our family was complete (almost) – we had our third child, we lived in a house with a good sized yard – we were living comfortably and life was good. It was only natural to look at our kids and say, “We need to get them a dog!” In my humble opinion, I think all kids need a dog. It seems almost as natural as fireworks on the 4th of July.
So one spring day Matt and I headed out to find our girls a dog, a great dog, a dog that would be the perfect fit for our family. And that’s exactly what happened. We decided that we wanted a black lab, and when we went to pick it out, it was perfectly easy to know which dog was ours. Of all the pups in the litter, our girl was the fattest, rolliest, polliest one there, and no matter how many times she got distracted with her siblings by running off, she would quickly stop and return to me and jump in my lap. Sold! Done and done!
So we drove our lil pork chop home to meet the girls. They were 1, 3 and 5 at the time, and as expected the house filled with high pitched screams – it was enough to make the pup take off running down the hall.
We gave Matt the honor of naming her, he said it had to be manly enough that when he called her in the house at night he wouldn’t sound ridiculous saying, “Here snooky” or “Here fluffy.” It had to be manly, even though she was a she. So he decided on plain ol’ “Dog.” Done and done.
The problem with buying a cute, adorable, fluffy puppy, is that you never really think about 10, 12, 13 years down the road. You don’t really think about your dog getting grey around the muzzle, slowing down a bit each time they get up to eat, or having a hard time hearing you when you call their name. You are just so smitten with their cuteness and deep precious eyes, that is … until they eat all of your wicker patio furniture like it was a bag of potato chips or chew one of your favorite boots up, but you still wear them because the other one is in perfect condition and by golly you are gonna get some use out of ’em!
Well somewhere along the way, that puppy grows up and finds the rhythm of the family. She knows that after nap time your 3-year-old will want a pony ride on her and when the baby falls off and cries, the dog will look at you with a worried glance that she did something wrong. You tell her, “It’s ok Dog,” and she wags her tail. She’ll know when she’s been a good dog and when she’s been bad – like when you find your missing chicken in the backyard with its head gone – that makes her a BAD dog.
Years continue to pass and your loyal dog endures everything that the family does. Moving six states away? There’s your dog sitting in the back seat patiently waiting for that next backyard. She knows when to expect the kids home, and she knows when dad will be sitting in his chair, because she is right there waiting for him. She knows when the kids are sick because she sits by their bed and gets nervous with each cough.
She doesn’t get thrilled with the idea of bringing a new puppy home either. I mean she just finally got on the cats good side after all.
But she trusts your decision and after awhile will take the pup on as her own lil’ mentor project. It’s not her ideal job but somebody has to do it.
Eventually only two things matter to her, food and family. And so that’s how it is. Before you know it, you are 13 years down the road with your faithful dog. She lets you know when it’s time for her to go, even though she still wants to hang on for the family, after all she is a worrier, and she’s never liked seeing any of you cry. You hate the decision you have to make, but you know you can’t bear to see her suffer one more second. You tell yourself you’re not gonna cry, but you do because you know she was huge part of your family, she helped raise the kids, she knows all their secrets they’ve whispered in her ears. You cry because you know she was more loyal to you and your family than you were to her. She loved the family unconditionally, despite the cat or the new puppy or when you dressed her as Batman for Halloween. That’s what good dogs do … and that’s the value of an old dog.