Little did I know when you chose me that day, just how much you would teach me about life.
And that’s how it happened, really. I thought I was going to the store to choose a dog to keep me company while my significant other went on deployment. But I had zero say in the matter. Out of the dozens of puppies at the rescue that day, you stood out from the crowd, even though you all looked identical. Your love of new friends was immediately evident as you instantly trotted over to me. I tried to look at the other puppies, but as I walked around, you kept following me. You chose me, and that was the end of that.
We were both babies then. You, maybe 6 months old. Me, maybe 6 months into my post-college adult life. That first night, you shook and shivered in your crate and cried incessantly until I brought you into bed with me. You calmed down as I held you, knowing that your new Mommy would take care of you. The world was big and scary, but we had each other and that was enough.
You taught me so much.
You taught me how to enjoy the little things. Like walks around the neighborhood as you rolled in the grass, went potty on all the trees, barked at all the other dogs, and sometimes ate rocks and sticks. Like an afternoon on the couch, just cuddling and enjoying each other’s company. Like laying in the sun at the front door, basking in the warmth. Like a good head scratch. Like a nap.
You taught me how to play. Fetch wasn’t really your thing, but you were pretty good at tug of war, and you ran an enthusiastic Kirby Derby around the house after every bath. You showed me that sometimes you just need to take a time-out from whatever you’re doing and have some fun.
You taught me to value time with the people you care about. You hated being left behind when I went to work every day, often crying or barking to show your displeasure. But you knew the sound of my car and I saw your little head bobbing over the windowsill as you jumped in delight when I returned home. You followed me around the house, never wanting to be more than a few feet away, because being close was all that mattered.
You taught me how to love unconditionally. It didn’t matter how many times I left you for work — you ALWAYS were happy to see me when I got home. It didn’t matter if I was fresh from the shower, or was post-workout sweaty — you ALWAYS wanted to lick my legs. It didn’t matter if I was happy or in the depths of despair — you were ALWAYS glad that I was your Mommy.
You taught me how to get excited about food! Food was one of your greatest joys, especially bacon, and cheese, and yogurt, and steak, and cookies. The sound of dinner being prepared always brought you trotting over, ears perked up, with a look of expectancy on your face, waiting for a delicious morsel. I was often happy to oblige, and I know your Grandma was always a willing victim to your begging.
You taught me to embrace new friends and hold onto old ones. You would’ve been the worst guard dog — you got excited when new people came in the door, and barked at them when they left. But that just showed that your heart was full of room for new friends, and carefully guarded relationships with the people who mattered in life.
You taught me how to get up and try again, even when I felt like I was all alone. You mostly did this by having to go potty outside in the morning…every stinking day…and forcing me to get up even when I didn’t want to. There were days in my post-divorce depression that I only got out of bed because you needed to go out. You didn’t know it, but in reality, you saved my life. I made it through those dark times because I had you with me, nudging me along with your little wet nose.
You taught me to boldly go forth and get what you want. Your life goals were pretty simple, but when you wanted Grandpa’s chair, or Grandma’s food, or my pillow, you weren’t afraid to ask for them. My life goals are a little more complex, but you’ve inspired me to be confident in what I want and reach for them.
You taught me to grin and bear it through life’s little annoyances. I stuck you in some pretty weird places for the sake of a good picture — the mailbox, microwave, dishwasher, fireplace, and pantry to name a few. But you humored me anyways, knowing that temporary discomforts are a small sacrifice when it comes to making someone you love happy.
And you taught me how to say goodbye. I think you knew when I visited last month that it would be the last time we’d see each other. So you crawled up in my lap like old times, and just let me hold you, scratch your head, and feel your stinky breath on my face. Thank you for that special moment. I’ll never forget it.
And thank you for all of the life lessons. I’ll never forget them.
And thank you for choosing me and loving me. I’ll never forget you.