A few days ago, I lost my sweet dog Jake. He was 17. We had him for his entire life, me at the age of 9, my sister 13, both of us excited for this tiny little puppy that would fit into our hands. We had no clue, then, the impact that tiny puppy would have on our lives. At 26 now, I don’t remember a life without him in it.
It’s insane to think that an animal can have this much of an effect on your human life. We are unable to communicate with our pets, but in our own ways we do talk to them. I would tell Jake about my day when I would get home from middle school, high school, college, and then my full-time job. He would sit there with his big old eyes and listen to my human gibberish, not a clue what I was saying but happy to listen regardless. He would be excited when I was excited, cuddle me when I was crying, spend an entire lazy day with me watching movies and crappy reality TV. In all of my memories of all different types of days, he was there.
When he got older, our relationship shifted from sibling to maternal. I would change his diaper, wipe him clean, give him baths in an increasing frequency that he absolutely hated. I learned that he was more comfortable if I took him into the shower with me than to bathe him alone in the tub. I would clean his sleepy eyes, wipe his nose, carry him across the house when it got harder for him. I would take him to the groomer for his haircut and explain every single time his various ailments, even though they knew him already. He gave me my first little glimpse into motherhood, I loved him and cared for him fiercely.
When I learned that we were at the end of his life, it shocked me how viciously it hurt me. I am not an emotional person, it’s always been a sort of character flaw of mine to think more logically than emotionally. But all logic now deserted me, 17 years was not long enough. He wasn’t just a dog, a pet. He was family, spending his entire life loving us and lifting our spirits on the daily. He was family, and it was his time to leave us.
Even now, the logical side of my brain is telling me that I’m being dramatic. Writing a whole blog post for my dog. Grieving, crying, denying. But those of us with pets know that our pets are not just that. They become family members, someone we look forward to seeing when we get home after a long day, someone we can’t wait to spend the whole weekend with, someone we choose to care for and spend all of our money on (and not just for the basics, because our pets deserve the best. Jake had many different sweaters for all seasons). When we lose them, we lose a part of ourselves.
I normally write my blog posts for others to read, but this one was for me, for release. I’m saying goodbye, and it sucks. Please, tonight and always, cuddle your pets a little closer for me. Give them treats, and wet food, and all of your love. Pets are only here for a portion of our lives, but we are their whole lives. Don’t ever forget the gift that they are. I didn’t know it when I was 9, but Jake would give my family and me one of the best gifts we would ever receive. For that, we are forever grateful. We love you, Jake.