Dear Larry: Only a dog
Written on January 12th, 2017
I used to get mad at you, you know. When you’d bark too much or throw up on my clothes or poop in the basement because you didn’t want to go outside in the rain. There are moments where I remember gritting my teeth as your ears went flat and you knew that you were in trouble, and I had to take a stream of deep breaths so that I didn’t raise my voice. I always felt guilty afterwards for wasting some of our precious time together in the midst of anger. I’ll always blame myself for the lack of consistency you sometimes experienced in your training. I’ll always have regrets; most of it really wasn’t your fault.
I’m only human, you know. I’ve only ever been human. But you, baby, were never only a dog. You were always so much more.
I was barely five years old when you waddled into my life with a few inbred genes and far more reasons to be loved. You were my first dog, my first unconditional best friend. You were the first life who loved me day in and day out, no matter my mood or my childish actions.
You were my first stab at responsibility. You taught me about obligations, about consistency, about cleaning up my toys and understanding natural instincts and taking time out of my day to give to you. You helped shape me into someone with morals and values and a heart ready to love.
You were my first experience with aging. It seems so far away that you and Lucy could actually jump up on our furniture without help, and watching you change over the years was as educational as it was difficult. I learned about your joints, about your eyesight, about your skin that never seemed to retain moisture. More than anything, I learned about love in the face of adversity from you. No matter your pain or your inabilities on any given day, you were always there to wag your tail and look into my eyes and press your body against mine for some cuddles. Even in sickness you were my unconditional best friend.
And then you were my first loss. I’d had hamsters throughout my childhood of course (you’d remember – you always were quite scared of the little fellas), but I always knew their lives were short and I could expect the time when it came. I’ve been fortunate to not lose a close family member or friend in my nineteen years of existence. Oh, I’ve been so blessed Larry… blessed that your loss was my first, blessed that I was able to live such a happy life for so long, blessed that I still have my parents and my sister and three other wonderful pets. But even the blessings that hide in the midst of heartbreak are never enough to make up for the pain. I know that now more than ever.
You were never only a dog, buddy. You were the most special, unique, loving, loyal creature I’ve ever met. You transcended simply being a pet, simply being a family member, simply being a friend. You became a part of me.
Even now, more than three months after we lost you, I still turn corners and expect to see you waking up from a nap to come greet meet. Sometimes I still hear my sister crying at night because you are not there to share her bed; sometimes I still cry myself to sleep, too. I don’t know if I will ever be used to your absence, but I do know that I will never forget the way you touched my life for fourteen amazing years.
I’ve only ever been human, but I’m a much better one than I was before I met you… because you were so much more than only a dog.
I hope you’re running and napping and making friends like crazy up there.