Thursday, June 16, 2011

Goodbye, old Friend

I can't believe it's been over 14 years since the day I met you. You were the shyest little thing, but had such a cute innocence about you. It was love at first sight, and I knew you would be my dog.

When we asked the shelter manager if we could visit with you, he walked ahead of us, loudly unlocking the chain-link door to your pen. You were the dog who cowered in the corner, trusting no one and fearing everything. When he pulled your reluctant self out, instincts kicked in and you immediately ran away! My mom and I were shocked, but the manager reassured us there was a fence on around the property, so you wouldn't be able to get far.

I think we paid $25 for you; a bargain for love. My dad was surprised to see a furball of a puppy arrive home in his garage. This wouldn't be the first time a dog had lived in this house. You were #3, and you had some big paws to fill. I remember the first few days and weeks, you mostly hid in corners, under tables and beds, anywhere you felt safe and protected. Your chocolate brown puppy eyes were framed by the softest, long fur. You looked like a bear cub. It took years before you outgrew your mistrust of people, especially men. But once you did, you were a friendly dog that enjoyed lots of bacon treats, runs on the leash, and unexpected runs off the leash. No matter how many times you enjoyed a joyrun, we always managed to catch you and haul you home.

Christmas mornings were a special day for you. Yes, you did have your very own stocking, filled with a random smattering of pigs' ears, balls, and other chewy things. But that was not your most coveted item. Of all the morsels of human food you've ever laid mouth on, it still and will always be that a lovefeast bun is your favorite taste. You behaved like a rabid dog once your nose caught the sweet, yeasty aroma of a bun that all of us traditionally ate around the Christmas tree. You'd leap onto the couch, and attempt stealing it, yes, even from our very lips!
Every year, you get to enjoy an entire lovefeast bun. And we love seeing you scarf it down as fast as you can.

You've done a lot more putting up with me, than I with you. You watched my tears fall and heart ache through high school at times, and were the perfect small shoulders to cry upon. You just listened and gave me a reassuring lick at times. We sat on the stairs many a time together, just being. There came a day in late summer 2001, when I had to leave you for an extended time. While I was away studying and making new friends at college, you kept Mom and Dad company while they learned to handle the empty nest. I'd call home and ask how you were doing. And Dad's constant response was, "We find her at your door, pawing to get in. So we open it, and she enjoys lying on the floor or your bed." I'm sorry you couldn't understand, Girl. I always loved coming home from college and being quickly greeted by you. I missed having a dog in my daily life.

Four years later, I moved back home to you. We had a new human to love, you and I. He was going to be your new Master and Friend. On September 3, 2006, I married him, and even you played a role in the wedding reception. Due to the constraints of the day, there was no way to have you physically present there, but Dad brought a stuffed animal proxy to remind me of you.

In the weeks and months that followed, we enjoyed being a new family together, taking walks down our neighborhood together. You never met a human who didn't like you. Elderly people took to your gentle and docile nature. And you are quite tolerant with the the little folks too, the ones who really can't seem to get enough of you.

Fast forward to summer 2009, and both of our worlds were turned radically upside down. There was yet another new human to love, this time, a Playmate. At the beginning, you were the calm in the chaos...lying down near my feet as your new playmate would wail and wail. I couldn't understand...why does she choose to endure this loud crying when she could leave the room and hide somewhere (as I desperately desired to do)? But you were choosing us. You've developed a very strong need to generally be with us. Not necessarily interacting with us, but you've just gotta be in the same room.

As the Playmate grew, my one on one time with you seemed to be quickly diminishing. He's not as chill as you are, and he requires a lot of attention. But you seemed to be okay with it, in your old age. Sleeping most of the day and enjoying short walks outside. The Playmate started getting mobile and thinking of you as his new favorite toy. I was never concerned that you would ever hurt him, mostly because at your old age, you no longer had teeth! But also because you're just a sweet dog.

He picked up on your name soon after his first words were said. And even now, tries to call you with commands. But, sadly, your ears no longer hear his playful calls. He wants to wrestle and tumble with you, but your hips can't handle that anymore. He's finally learned to be gentle with you, stroking your soft fur. And just yesterday crawled under your belly through his own tunnel. These are the memories I'll miss. He loves you so much. He talks about you, asks about you, and it will hurt me to hear him say all those sweet words in his speech.

There comes a time in life, when old age takes over, when the daily things that took no thought or effort, seem to begin to take a toll. I want you to know, that you are loved. Tomorrow will be one of the hardest days of my life. I have to say goodbye. And I won't hear your collar jingling anymore or get to call you "Fishbreath" any longer. We've had a good run together, you and I. But I rather not wait until the bitter end when you're no longer yourself completely. I know you can't possibly understand what's going on. You're so trusting now, not the dog I met 14 years ago. But I promise, I'm not trying to betray you or give up on you. You're a sweet dog who will never leave my heart. You will always be the dog with a million nicknames...Beana, Bean, Quigley, Cubbina, Cub, JaBeana, Nina... but in my mind, you're just Cubbie.

I love you, old girl.

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