It's true. Ours hasn't been the easiest relationship. At first, the only reason I loved you was because you were The Hub's dog. I've always had dogs of my own. I've always raised my dogs from pups. I'm a dog lover but when we met, I already owned two of the world's best dee-ooh-gees, so I wasn't sure I had room in my heart (or my house) for you. But, since you belonged to The Hub, you were welcome. Sort of. Truth is, (and I've never told you this) the only reason I let you move in with him was because the only other option was bringing in his two cats. And that was never going to happen. So on moving day, Jen got the cats. And we got you.
Whew. Crisis averted. Or so I thought. Turns out, the joke was on me. You're more a cat than Sylvester. I guess since you were raised with cats you have a cat like attitude. You are sorta snooty like a cat. You get disgusted if anyone tried to pet you. You've always wanted to keep your distance and you hate the idea of snuggling up.
You even lay (a far away from us as possible) on a rug in a patch of sunbeam and lick your paws.
For a long time I simply tolerated you. But it was hard not to like you. Because although you weren't keen on us, you are kind of funny. Okay, neurotic.
You never cross the room without giving the end table a wide berth.
You always keep at least one eye on the registers in the house … I've never once seen a register attack you, but maybe that's just because you wisely never let them sneak up on you.
You sneeze more than any pet – any HUMAN – I've ever known. And always ALWAYS you sneeze immediately after I pet you. I swear you know how to do that on cue.
You hate fireworks and thunderstorms. Hate them. And there are many a night when I wake up to thunder and roll instinctively and immediately to the middle of the bed because although you want NOTHING to do with us in the sunny, clear weather, during storms you will try to perform the nifty trick of burying your nails deep into my thigh and pulling yourself up onto the bed.
The first day we brought you home I plopped you down behind the dog gate with the two other adult dogs who you would have to learn to live with. Enclosed in the kitchen, where my dogs always stayed when I was gone, you looked back up at me like I was insane. But The Hub and I had a truck to unpack and so we left you there and headed out the front door, opened the rear door of the truck and grabbed the first of many boxes to carry inside. When I turned, you met me on the porch. Looking like "What else you got, lady?"
I headed back to the kitchen to see a gate demolished and laying flat and my two pups standing completely still – still in the kitchen - gazing at me like "what the heck just happened?"
You weren't big, corgi-sized really, but you were mighty. There wasn't a single item I could put in front of that gate that you couldn't figure out how to move. Benches, trunks, plywood, dining room table … whatever I shoved up there, you moved. Until finally, I gave up. even I have my limits.
Before you, the dogs all slept together. After you, dogs all needed separate beds.
Before you, the dogs ate out of the same bowl. After you, all dogs had different bowls.
Before you, dogs stayed put behind gates. After you … well, you know very well the extent we had to go through just to keep you contained.
Before you, dogs stayed off the furniture. After you. Oy.
We were off to a rocky start. But we grew on each other.
I didn't realize how much you'd grown on me until the day – about 6 months after you moved in – when you ran away. I still don't know how you got out of the back yard and I still think you waited until the day I had removed your collar to wash it to try. Somehow, someway, you got out. When I came to the door to let you in, you were nowhere to be found. I began searching. I started on foot in the neighborhood. I eventually used the car. I called The Hub and he came home. We drove and called and whistled. It was a chilly night. I was worried. You didn't have your collar. You don't like people. How would you make it?
Hours later, we gave up for the night. It was too dark. We couldn't even see the end of our sidewalk. I stood at the front door gazing out for what seemed an eternity until The Hub called me away. I felt awful. Awful for you. Awful for The Hub – whose dog you rightfully were. Awful for The Kid who we'd have to tell. And, as I walked to where The Hub stood, I realized, I felt awfulist for me.
And that's when the waterworks started. I thought you were gone for good and suddenly I realized there was an Orange Dog-shaped hole in my life. And that hole was big and gaping and it hurt. Stupid dog. Wormed your way into my heart and now you were gone.
And just when I thought all hope was lost, I looked outside to see you walking up the front walk like nothing was wrong.
You left. But you came back.
Maybe you decided to give our family another chance. Maybe you realized home is pretty okay after all. Maybe you never really had any intention of running away. But secretly, I like to believe you came back because as you settled down for the night in some neighbor's back yard or behind some dumpster, you became aware of a jenne-sized hole in your life. And you came back to fill it.
Since then, we've done just fine. Since then, you've greeted me at the door – not always – but sometimes. Since then, you occasionally let me pet your furry orange head. Since then you've only run away 6 other times … but I just chalk that up to your spirit of adventure, not a desire to leave me.
I like to tease you. It's true. I like to come up behind you and give you a "pffft" and a gentle poke in the sides. And you like to take off when I do, spin around and drop your head down and keep your butt up. I like to step lightly on your front paws and watch you try to jump on my feet. I like to call you Grandma and GiGi and Gingy. And, I'm not sure, but I think I was the first to notice a while back when you'd lost a bit of pep. And I was there the first time you tired to get up and found your back legs weren't listening to you. And I've watched carefully these few months as you've walked slower, struggled more with steps, had more accidents inside, slept deeper and deeper.
I hurt when you struggle to get up.
I can't stand it when you shake.
I worry about you when I'm gone.
I watch you carefully when I'm working to make sure you don't need me.
I get sick to my tummy when I see you limp slowly across the room.
So I had no choice but to be an adult and to make that call today. Because although I allowed you to move in, allowed you to change the routine, allowed you to rewrite all my dog rules, the one thing I will not allow is for you to suffer or hurt or wonder why things are so different for you now.
You were a rotten puppy. You were a rotten dog. And I'll miss you every day.
Goodbye Orange Dog
Thank you for being a part of our lives
Thank you for teaching me about what it means to be a grown-up
Thank you for sleeping beside my side of the bed these last few months
Thank you for the times you didn't bite me when I stepped on you in the middle of the night
Thank you for not breaking the skin when you did
Thank for being you – cat, dog, friend.
I hope you somehow make it to the cat side of heaven. I think you'll love it there.
Love love and love,