Over winter break I nearly lost two of my best friends. One is four years old and the other is turning 10 this February. I wish I could say I lost neither one of them, but I’d be lying. I lost my four-year-old friend, Lobo, one rainy night and one week later my ten-year-old friend, Comino, was carried into the hospital unsure of whether he would ever lay paws in his home again.
My best friends are dogs. They don’t stand on two feet (unless it’s for a treat) and they go outside to do their business. Ever since I could remember I have had dogs in my life. Dogs have come and gone out of my life. Most of the time they have dug their way under the fence and left, leaving only a few paw prints behind. Yes, we’ve cried but my family and I have never cursed death for taking our pets.
One December day before Christmas Eve my parents were walking my four-year-old Husky. For reasons I will never understand, he got loose and ran away. He’s done it before and I’ve always gone looking for him with treats in hand and ready to run for him. The chase was never easy, but he’d eventually be home. This time I was at work, it was night time, and it was raining.
We put posters all around the neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods come morning. We expected to find him. We expected to see his shiny, crystal blue eyes once more. He was always such a darling. He sat on demand, gave me his paw when asked, jumped for treats, and took me out for exercise over the summer. He cried and pleaded to come inside whenever it rained or got too hot. He’d hug you and ask for love when he needed it. His cheeks were big and fluffy, always so fun to pinch to get him to playfully bite you. During the summer he’d lay in our kitchen, his belly on the fresh, cold floor. He smiled at you and was the best selfie taker I knew. But I will never see any of that ever again. My parents got a call that afternoon with the news that he’d been hit by a car. He was gone.
At first I was shocked. Just that weekend we had decided to take him on his first trip. We went on a hike to the waterfalls at Highlands in southern North Carolina. We had a big fight because my mom wanted to take one of our Dachshunds since Lobo would shed a lot of hair in the car. Somehow we ended up taking Lobo anyway. He was great in the car and seemed so happy to be out. He looked so handsome beside the waterfall and walking up and down the mountain. On the ride back home he slept through it peacefully. It would be his first and last trip. I hope it was the happiest day of his life.
I didn’t know what it was like to lose a pet, a friend. His absence was felt deeply around the house. It was like we were waiting to see him through the window at any time. We waited to find out he had been hiding out in the back yard or to realize that we had picked up the wrong dog on the side of the road, it wasn’t our Lobo.
I asked many questions, but there were some that no one could answer. Like with most tragedies and heartbreak, those unanswered questions haunt me day in and day out. I hate that you never know when it might be the end such as the end to a relationship, the last time you see someone, the last time you visit some place, the last time before change. If only we knew, what would we do differently?
The very last time I saw my Lobo was a day before work. It was raining outside, but I had the urge to clean my car. I brought it into the garage and cleaned it while he watched from his crate. Right before work I looked into his eyes and smiled. I took for granted that I’d see him when I got back. So naive.
I cried deep into the next morning the night I found out he was gone. It’s gotten a little easier to deal with his absence, but I still cry every now and then.
On Christmas Eve my nine-year-old Dachshund got sick. We though he had a stomach virus. He wouldn’t stop vomiting. He didn’t eat or drink. The next morning he vomited more and more. Again, I had to work but my parents rushed him to the hospital where they were told he had Diabetes. We had the choice to put him down or to hospitalize him, something that would cost a lot of money and there would be no guarantee that he’d survive. All my mom kept saying was, “I’m not giving up on him. He’s been with me through my best and worst. I’m not giving up on him.”
He survived. He was also diagnosed with Pancreatitis, something else I can’t put a name to but having to do with his Adrenal Gland, Pneumonia, and a slow type of cancer. He’s doing better and we have to inject him twice a day with insulin, but he’s alive and breathing. I’m so thankful for that. Some days are better than others. Some days he’ll chase the other dogs around the yard and on others he won’t get up from the couch. But I have my best friend here.
It’s a little selfish really. I don’t know if he’s hurting or not, but he seems alright at least. Sometime he’ll wag his tail and look at me with his eyes that seem to be a door to his heart. I’ve always said that if I had a super power that it would be to read minds. I want to know what others are thinking and I want to know what dogs think too. Do they know how much they mean to us? Are they happy with their lives or do they wish they could do more with their lives, perhaps serve as a service dog or vacation more? Are we choosing the right flavor for their food or is it unbearable?
My pets have always been treated as family. They are my pets, my friends, my companions, my ride or die, my protectors, and my brothers. To some, it may seem silly but I seriously cannot imagine my life without them. They are unique. They have their quirks. My nearly 10-year-old dog for example who has been with me since I was 10 (I will be 21 in October)! He’s been with me through puberty, through my rebellious phase, through my brace face, he’s seen me off to college, he’s been on family vacations, and so much more! He’s a part of this family and his absence wouldn’t just be physical, but spiritual as well.
I just pray that I learn to let them go when it is time. All I have is now. That is something I really grew to understand this winter break. There’s all these little things we miss that we may wish we had payed more attention to once they’re over. We have to be more aware and more present with the people we’re with and with our surrounding. We often stress about tomorrow and worry about the past, but now is much more important. Now is worth it. It’s worth your time and effort.
Maybe no one will ever invent the time machine. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve wished to go back in time to fix things, but while I worry about the past I miss out on all the beautiful moments right in front of me. My Lobo is gone and there are things I wish I had done differently, but Lobo is irreplaceable and he will always hold a place in my heart. I will remember the good times and I’m thankful that he came into my life. My family and I have this belief that our pets choose us, we don’t choose them. I also believe in purpose. There’s things that Lobo brought into our life that at the moment were necessary, now they’re gone but I will always remember them.
When Comino’s time comes I will have to let him go too (I don’t have much of a choice). I will cry for what seems never ending, but somehow I will survive and move on with my life. Our hearts seem to break into a million pieces, but somehow we go on.
In the meantime, I will take him out on more road trips and evening strolls. I will kiss the top of his head while he’s here and I will let him sleep at my feet at night. In the meantime I will give him treats (in moderation) and I will inject him with his insulin with care and all the love that I can transfer from a needle into his skin.
My dear pets, thank you for all the years. Thank you so much for everything. I really hope that our souls are somehow connected and that we’ll see each other once again in heaven. I hope you’re in heaven now chasing all the bunnies and birds that your doggy hearts desire. I hope you don’t feel pain. I hope that you wait patiently for us, your owners and friends, to be reunited. I love you so much, my best of best friends. Look over us from wherever you may be.