I had to have my puppy Luke put to sleep on Friday. Okay – he wasn’t so much a “puppy” – he was 12 years old – but he was my baby, my sweet boy. I miss him terribly. My house feels so empty without him coming to the door to meet me, or lying under my desk while I write.
Animals have always played an important role in my life. I’ve always had a cat or two (or nine – when I was married to my ex). When I married my husband, not only did I have an instant family, but it came with a dog – a pure-bred Siberian Husky named “Thunder Paws’ Teton Sunset”. We just called her Tasha. She was a sweet thing with a ferocious-sounding bark. She wouldn’t hurt a flea. She lived to be 14 before liver cancer took her. We were devastated. My husband wouldn’t even consider getting another dog for months.
Then one day my mom called. “I think I found your new dog,” she said.
“I didn’t know I was looking for one,” I said.
A lady at Mom’s church had inherited a dog from her grandson when he moved out of state. She loved the dog, but she discovered after he moved in with her that she was allergic to him. He had to live outside 24/7, and he was getting pretty depressed about it. I agreed to just go meet the dog, figuring I could use the “He’s too big” or “I don’t think he’ll get along in our family” or any one of a million other excuses to avoid coming home with a dog.
The lady escorted me to the back yard and introduced me to Luke. His tail didn’t just wag, it went around in circles like a propeller. We played fetch for a while, then I squatted down next to him to give him a few scruffles. He sat right in front of me, rested his head on my chest, and I instantly fell in love. I loaded a 50 pound bag of dog food, three chewed-up tennis balls, a red leash, and a stainless steel dog dish into my van. I didn’t have to load Luke. The minute I opened the door, he jumped in and made himself to home in the passenger’s seat. I think the lady I was getting him from was a little sad that he was so eager to go.
My hubby was not too thrilled to discover a new dog in the house when he got home from work that day. It took all of about 24 hours for Luke to win him over. The kids were ecstatic to have a new dog, especially one who played fetch for hours on end. They fought over who would get to take him for walks or give him a treat.
I was in the middle of getting my Masters degree when Luke moved in. He would sit by my side as read book after book. He would curl up under my desk and keep my feet warm as I wrote papers and worked on my novel. One of the books I have in progress features a dog like Luke as a main character. He became as much a family member as any of the humans in our house.
But he began to develop some health problems. After we’d had him about a year, he developed a seizure disorder and had to be on Phenobarbitol to help keep them under control. About three years ago, he had an intestinal blockage that required surgery (he had swallowed a corn cob without chewing it up first). Then two years ago, he developed Auto-Immune Hemalitic Anemia. His white blood cells began attacking his red blood cells for no reason. He went through three blood transfusions, and he spent almost two weeks in the vet clinic. He was put on Prednisone to treat that, and Prevacid to protect his stomach against ulcers. All of this combined led to his kidneys losing their ability to remove toxins from his body, and ultimately to fail.
One of the wonderful things about dogs is their ability to live in the moment. They don’t care what you did or said last week. They don’t worry about an hour from now or next month. All a dog cares about is what is happening right this second, or maybe what you’ll do next. Dogs show emotion without apologizing for it. Dogs don’t play mind games, they don’t behave in snarky, back-stabbing ways, and they don’t put up pretenses. They just are. They can be neurotic, just like people, but unlike people, they love unconditionally until you give them a reason not to.
At some point, our family will adopt another dog. We’ve talked in the past about visiting the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary (http://www.bestfriends.org/) to adopt an abandoned dog or mistreated dog. But it’s going to be a while. We are still grieving the loss of Luke. The universe gave us one of the best friends we’ve ever had, and I trust that we’ll make that same connection again.
I can’t imagine living in a house without the power of Dog in it.