Thank you to my childhood dogs

Written on November 6th, 2017

To my childhood dogs,

Over the past 15 years I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how much you mean to me. I don’t believe I’ll ever find the right ways to fully show you, especially now that you’ve both crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

But you deserve to know — and I want the whole world to know — so I’m going to try.

When I was five years old, one of you waddled into my life with fluffy white fur and a big personality. Larry, I may have only been in kindergarten, but my love for you was far bigger than my vocabulary. And when you came along two years later, Lucy, it felt like our family was complete.

Two kids. Two cats. And two tiny, fluffy, adorable puppers.

I had always liked dogs, but having you two by my side sparked a passion I never could have imagined. If it weren’t for growing up with such amazing canines, I might not be as invested of a dog owner now. You truly altered the course of my life!

Though I was too young to fully understand a lot of things about you — like the reasons I couldn’t feed you people food or why you didn’t want to be pushed around in my doll stroller — your presence still taught me about responsibility.

I had to consider your needs as well as my own. I got to help feed you and walk you. You brought our family together, and you gave Dad a reason to get outside every single afternoon for a trip around the block.

You bred inside me a level of empathy I never would have developed without pets. I couldn’t communicate with you directly, but I had to learn to watch your body language and remember your routine to make sure you were comfortable. Sometimes you drove me unbelievably up the wall… but I knew you needed us, and that inspired me to think beyond my own small existence.

And oh, boy, did you ever teach me about love. I have never known creatures who are so completely loyal. We’d leave you with a friend for spring break and come home to wagging tails and not an ounce of spite. We’d miss your daily walk and you’d just snuggle up on the couch, pure forgiveness, like you didn’t have a care in the world.

You were so accepting of us, so comforting, so constantly supportive. “Love is when you leave your puppy by himself all day and he still licks your face when you get home.” I don’t know if there’s a truer quote.

But out of all of the things you gave me — the passion for dogs that has become a lifelong source of joy, the lessons in responsibility, the steadfast love — perhaps the best has been an insatiable desire to do better.

Look, Larry and Lucy, I know we weren’t perfect owners. We were learning so much! In the beginning we subscribed to dominance theory training methods because we didn’t know any better. I’m sure we could have paid more attention to your body language. We definitely let you both get a little chubby… and even though the treats tasted good, I know your joints didn’t love them.

We made a lot of mistakes, when it comes down to it. They’re things I think about every day. But I can’t change the past — so I focus instead on how I can improve for tomorrow.

Because of you, I’m a better owner for Snort. Because of your love even through my worst moments, I have been inspired to grow. Because of the mistakes I made and the confusion we worked through and the experiences we shared, I am more educated and steady and capable.

You have motivated me to become the best handler I possibly can. Whenever I spend time researching the science behind a method or engaging in a tough dialogue with other owners, I think about your sweet faces. Sure, I might be reading about things to help Snort and my future dogs… but you are the reasons I care so much.

I will forever be thankful for everything you’ve done for me. I will forever be trying to make you proud. I will forever, forever, forever love you first. My heart is covered in Bichon Frise pawprints… pawprints that have beautifully paved the way for so many others yet to come.