It’s been one year since I saw you last, and I still think about you often. Not a week goes by when I don’t say or think, “The house feels so empty without Bailey,” or “Pickles misses B,” or “Damn, I miss her.” Little things remind me of you. Images that pop up in my Facebook feed. The jangle of your collar that still hangs on my rearview mirror. (It’s been there since the day you left.) This morning when I let Pickles out of his kennel, the smell of white cheddar popcorn filled my nose. That was always the way you smelled after a good sleep, and it brought tears to my eyes smelling it again. I haven’t smelled that since you left.
We were an inseparable pair for 13 years. They were years filled with challenges and changes and trials and triumphs. But, from the moment I held your tiny silky little body with those over-sized paws and huge velvety ears, we were matched forever. Nothing was going to separate us. We struggled through a puppyhood that never seemed to end and eventually survived to settle into our daily rhythm. You never got past your love for digging through the trash or counter-surfing or finding endless ways to get into trouble as soon as I walked out the door, but the love and devotion you showed me upon my return always erased the sins of the previous hours.
Our last week together was filled with tears and sadness and pain, and I’m sorry that I let you down. I always promised that, when the time came, I’d make the hard decisions to put your comfort first. But, when the time came, I failed you. I tried everything to make you better because I was afraid of facing a morning without your flapping ears or an evening without your soft, bony body beside me. I was weak when you needed me the most, and I hope you can forgive me. I was selfish, and I’m sorry. Letting you go was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and, as you know, we’ve done some pretty hard things.
You were a pretty remarkable creature, and it took experiencing life without you to realize that. You were my partner-in-crime for almost half of my life (and the entirety of my adult life). You have loved me unconditionally. No one else has ever loved me so patiently and without needing anything in return. When we moved 700 miles away from our family and friends, you were all I had for months. No friends. No family. Living on chicken and rice. Watching TV curled up on the futon that Mom and Dad bought us. Just the two of us. Even after we settled in and made new friends, we were still a pair. I had your soft fur to dry my tears when I cried into your angular shoulders and your eager enthusiasm met me at the door to celebrate our greatest wins. You were my best friend. You knew me at my best and you remained steadfast through my worst. For that I owe you everything.
I miss you a little every day, but what makes the missing you harder is that the one who has always comforted me in my sadness isn’t there anymore to rest her heavy head on my lap and look up at me with concerned eyes. The house is lonely without you, and we’ve talked about adding another dog to our family. But my heart can’t handle growing to love and depend on another companion only to have that friend taken away. It may be selfish, but it’s also self-preservation. Losing you shattered my heart into a million pieces, and it’s going to take more than a year to start piecing it together again.
Thank you for giving me such laughter and joy for 13 years.
Thank you for giving me practice at being patient.
Thank you for getting me out and walking on days when all I wanted to do was be lazy.
Thank you for being lazy with me when I felt under the weather or just needed time to rest.
Thank you for protecting me from countless delivery men, and thank you for accepting all of the people and creatures that I’ve brought into our lives.
Thank you for being my go-to road trip companion, logging thousands of miles from the comfort of your cozy bed in my backseat.
Thank you for staying with me long enough to meet James, even though he added more noise and chaos to your life.
Thank you for being my best friend.