I have struggled to write this for a week and a half. I have been wanting to tell you the story of my dog, a much loved and integral part of my family, and that he has died. I’ve written drafts and thrown them out, rearranged them in my head and on paper, never quite satisfied that they would tell you the story of how much I and my family have loved him. Now, I can only see him in my mind, and I imagine him playing in the garden of God.
When he was a puppy, he was abandoned by his first family. That summer day he waited on the side of the road until my sister came along and picked him up, according to God’s plan. I’ve wanted to show you how cute he was, with his black spotted tongue hanging out of his mouth, and his one black ear always folded down, even when he commanded them both to stand up, but I can’t show you, I can only tell you about it, and my words don’t feel like enough.
I want you to know that I’ll miss him because he made me laugh in spite of myself, like when he buried a ham bone in the yard, and dug it up a MONTH later when he wanted a snack. I even had to laugh when he would pull my clean jeans off the clothes line and bury them in the yard, or run around with them in his mouth, trying to entice me into a game of Catch Me If You Can. I like to think that once again he is young and energetic, now pulling God’s pants off His clothesline, teaching God his own version of flag football.
I know that he was not perfect. He barked at the vacuum; he was afraid of our new refrigerator; he liked to sneak naps on the couch when we weren’t home (the warmth of one spot on the cushion always gave him away). He had a weakness for deli ham, even if it was in the supermarket bag, just dropped in the kitchen while the other bags were being brought in. He also had an obsession with dirty baby diapers, which may have sent him to the Betty Ford Center if his supply had not been cut off when the kids were potty-trained. At least he had the grace to look apologetic every time afterward.
He was there for us. He was always ready to play with my husband, to put his doggie-head on my husband’s shoulder as a gesture of affection as they both sat on the top step of the staircase each morning. ‘I love you, Dad,’ it’s like he was saying. He was my compassionate listener, my companion who asked nothing of me except my presence, and maybe a table scrap now and then. He would listen patiently to my complaints, and he never cared if I was cranky, had bad breath or was having a bad hair day. He let the kids use him as their pillow, and once, my daughter even fell asleep holding his paw because I was unavailable to hold her hand. I know that God appreciates these qualities now. I know there are dogs in Heaven, because it wouldn’t be Heaven without them.
I will always miss his black, velvety ears, his soulful brown eyes and his bushy grey eyebrows, his obliging willingness to be a foot warmer in the winter and to walk with me to close the chicken coop at night even when the weather was horrible. I’ll miss the way he got up in the morning when one of us got up – even if it was 4:30 am. I’ll miss his presence, and I can see it’s going to take me a long time to not see him in certain spots in the house, to not hear him breathing from his spot on the floor beside the bed in the middle of the night. Just last night at 4 a.m., I had to convince myself NOT to check and see if he was really there. And I was fully awake.
Now there is nothing left I can do but offer this as his eulogy, my declaration of love. I will miss him not forever, but until we meet again, when we will both play in the garden of God.