Someone asked me what the most difficult thing about having a dog was. I replied – “the goodbye.” — Unknown
Scrolling through the adoptable dogs on Petfinder, I could not help but stop at a black and white dog wearing a red collar being featured as Dog of the Day. I couldn’t believe such a good-looking dog was still available! Surely, he had already been adopted and they forgot to take his picture down. When we arrived at the animal shelter, he was the only one not jumping and barking, but also not cowering in the corner. He just stood straight and center, looking at us patiently, tail wagging. His personality and demeanor matched our own, his age (four months) was about the same age as our marriage (three months), and the $75 price tag fit our newlywed budget. He was the one. An hour later, he hesitantly and anxiously walked out onto bumpy gravel under the hot August sun and then comfortably melted into my lap in the backseat of our air-conditioned car as my husband drove us home.
We all started a new life together in a way, not yet knowing that my first married birthday present from my new husband was in actuality a 15-year-long gift of unconditional love. We named him Snoop.
During his first seven years of being our only “child,” he endured our 20-somethings’ lifestyle. I felt bad leaving him home alone all day while we went to work, eagerly awaiting his wagging tail upon my return. Friday nights meant stopping home for five short minutes between work and meeting up with friends to let him out before guiltily closing the door on him again. He would literally cry every time we walked through the door he was so happy to see us, even if all we did was get the mail. But we also took him on walks and gave him playdates with other dogs. We threw frisbees at parks and enjoyed dog festivals. He slept on our couch and we’d spoon in my bed during storms. We celebrated every one of his birthdays, dressed him up almost every Halloween, watched him open his own Christmas presents, wrapped him up in homemade blankets made by his human grandma, fed him table scraps and took him on vacations. He was spoiled.
At 7 1/2-years-old (46 in doggy years), child #1 came along. Snoop wasn’t happy about the replacement, but he quickly adapted and accepted his new role as protective guard dog. Kids #2 and #3 later appeared, pushing him lower down the totem pole. He knew his place, but also knew he was still part of this family. Banned from lazing on new couches, legs too weak to jump onto our bed or chase after frisbees, boarded during family trips and no longer willing to humor us with silly costumes, the days were gone of luxury doggy living. Life now consisted of ear pulls, being used as a bridge or tunnel by toddlers, overaggressive petting, dog beds taken over by crawling babies and kids literally running circles around him. He handled it as well as a good boy could. I sometimes wonder if he even remembers life before kids. After 12 years in the same house, he handled an out-of-state move flawlessly because his home is his people, not a house or a city.
We have now reached the final phase of this wonderful dog’s life.
We watched him discover sand and grass, bite at the rain, eat worms and roll in mud. We watched him mature as three little humans took precedence and he obligingly stayed in the background. And we’ve watched him grow weary, frail and troubled, reluctantly coming to terms with knowing we need to say good-bye. Every story has an ending and although the ending is sad, he has brought us so much happiness, laughter and snuggles over the past 15 years.
Now all we can do is hold onto the memories that make us smile and laugh: the time my germaphobe husband let Snoop lick his plastic spoon and then forgot and put it back in his own mouth; the time a bird pooped on him while he was relieving himself; the time he ate my daughter’s umbilical cord stump that had fallen off onto the floor; the time he rolled around in so much wet mud that all we could see of him were his eyeballs (I still consider this the best day of his life).