On why my kids will always have a pet

This past week, my dog [and best friend] of fifteen years passed away. Since then, I’ve been reflecting a lot on how having pets have affected my life. Sometimes when I need a good smile (or cry) I’ll look up videos of service dogs helping their owners. It always amazed me how amazing animals could be.

When I was really upset the day I found out my dog passed, my friend reminded me of something I had heard before. “Every one is born so that they can learn how to live a good life – like loving everybody and being nice, right? Well, animals already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.” It’s cheesy – but it’s true.

Dogs have been in my life for as long as I can remember. I always remember dogs running around and laying on the couch growing up. Savannah is definitely the most memorable of the many. It had been a little while since our two dogs had grown old and passed away, and our parents were finally ready to get another dog (because the house was just too quiet and lonely). So we went to the Humane Society in Charlotte with two rules: 1. Not a big dog 2. Not a dog that sheds. We came out with a black lab/Chow Chow mix – large and very furry.

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Sorry, Dad. It was fate. I remember perfectly my brother and I running from cage trying to narrow down the choices and the precise moment we saw her for the first time. A volunteer at the shelter had just given her a bath and let us pet her while she was in her arms. We fell in love instantly. She was immediately the best friend I could ask for.

Over the next 15 years, as I grew up through the bad middle school haircuts and the broken hearts and the various phases, she was right there by my side. I could not have made it through those terrible years of my depression eating at my emotions. I would not have been able to get up in the mornings without her nose in my face. I would not have been able to fall asleep not crying without her furry butt cuddled up next to me.

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Choosing to leave the state for college was hard enough to do already, but knowing she didn’t know where I’d be disappearing to made it so much worse. I remember squeezing her so tight before I got into the car for the slowest four months of my life. That first reunion was so, so joyful and I constantly teased my parents about how it was fine to see them, but I really came back for the pup.

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The great thing about dogs is that they never seem to remember if you did anything wrong. No matter what happened at school or work, I always knew I could come home to someone who loved me no matter what I did. I read this article earlier this morning (and obviously bawled like I was watching The Fox and the Hound), but it reminded me of the way she would look at me. The great thing about dogs is that they can teach you so much by not trying to teach you anything. The great thing about dogs is that they appreciate everything you do so much. The greatest thing about dogs is that they never leave your side.

And that is why my kids will have dogs. My kids will learn to love and be loved by someone who is not myself. I can’t promise that I will love perfectly. But a dog will love perfectly.

Savannah, I love you so, so much. You taught me that it’s okay to be upset, but that I always have people to love me. You taught me how strong I am and how much I have conquered and can conquer. It will continue to hurt me forever that I wasn’t there to kiss your face and scratch behind your ear (that little part that had the softest fur on your body) when you took your last breath. I will never stop loving you and I will always miss you. Rest easy, babe.

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