What is better than man’s best friend? Well, obviously nothing, besides maybe a cat too. Dogs are some of the biggest blessings in your life. They will listen to your problems even if they can’t respond, they know when you are sad or hurt and lick your tears away, and they are the first thing you cannot wait to see in the morning. Or at least, that’s what my dog was to me.
I begged and begged my dad for years to get us a dog, but we already had a cat and that seemed to be enough responsibility. But, after years of pleading, he finally secretly caved. On Christmas morning 2010, as we walked into the dining room we laid eyes on this sweet little black lab/border collie puppy in a huge cage. It was the best day AND it was already Christmas, so that made it even better. Our dad had kept it a secret from me, my sister, and my mom. The only people who knew were my dad and my grandma and grandpa, who kept her overnight Christmas Eve so the surprise wouldn’t be ruined.
We named her Birdy and she fit in perfectly with us. She loved to eat, play ball while dad cut the grass, and go on tons of walks. She was a little weird too, she hated the vacuum and any male who wasn’t my dad. She would hide under the table and shiver when any loud noise would occur, but I was always willing to crawl down there with her. She was there through so many trying times with us; deaths, bike accidents, breakups, the whole 9 yards. But, she was there for all the happy times too; graduations, birthdays, holidays, and so much more.
She loved golf cart rides more than anything. The lake was her happy place, she felt so at peace there. She put up with more than she signed up for, whether it was me napping on her bed with her, putting her reindeer ears on, or sharing the house with the cat. She never snapped at anyone and while she wasn’t always the most affectionate, she was always there when you needed a puppy cuddle the most.
When Sydney left for college, Birdy truly did become my best friend. She was always there when I got home and became my co-pilot on trips down to the lake. Every morning while I would procrastinate to get ready for high school, I would spend 5 minutes laying on the ground in the dark living room and just snuggling with her while we were both trying to fully wake up. I would give anything for more moments like that with my sweet pup.
But, of course, nothing lasts forever. Almost three weeks ago now, I was woken up at 6:16 am and my mom told me something was wrong with Birdy. She couldn’t move her body as much as she wanted to, and her heart was beating so fast. I did what I always do and just laid with her on the ground for about an hour unsure of what was to come. My parents soon took her to the vet and before they could make it she went to her home in the sky. As my mom called me and Sydney to tell us what had happened, I already knew what she was going to say. My heart was broken. My sweet pup and best friend was gone without much notice.
But the thing is, as much as it hurt, I felt like I couldn’t express how I felt or tell anyone. With so much going on, I thought the last thing people care about is my dog dying, so I didn’t talk about it. I didn’t want to put myself at the center when there are thousands of people dying every day. But at the same time, this is what mattered to me, not zoom calls or assignments, but myself and how I felt through all this. I was already stuck inside my house with the same three people for the past month and then my one constant source of happiness was taken from me. And my mindset wasn’t ‘it’s okay to be sad’, it was ‘people have it so much worse right now, get over it.’
People grieve in all different ways, especially in my family. I’m not the type to want to sit in my pain (like my mom), I like to bottle it up or write out how I feel but express it to no one. And this time, those ways of grieving weren’t going to work. I needed to express how sad I felt, and I needed that feeling to be validated, which of course my mom was willing to validate.
So, to the girl who lost her dog, I am so sorry because I know how much it hurts. Whether it was yesterday or two years ago, you are allowed to grieve. Pets are family, so it makes sense to be as sad as you are. But also know that grieving comes in different ways, you may not be the type to cry openly (I know I’m not). You may want to be alone and sort through it all and that’s totally normal. Just know you are not alone. I know how hard it is, especially right now when it seems that everyone around you is adopting puppies or fostering dogs. But, I just remember something that my mom told me that day, she said “don’t worry, Birdy is watching us from Heaven with your grandparents.” And that was all I needed to hear, to know that now I had one more sweet soul up there watching over me.