Heartbreak. Most of us associate it with breakups, divorce or sad movies. We associate it with losing someone or relating to a story because it’s an experience we’ve encountered. I hate to say that many of you will relate to this. I’m sad to say many of you will not.
I’ve gone through breakups, watching my parents get divorced, losing family members and yet nothing prepared me for the heartbreak I felt on Tuesday night.
Nearly 15 years ago, a small, sassy, golden, four-legged ball of fur made her debut into our family. At just 8 weeks old the dog my parents let me name became a part of our family.
Missy was full of spunk and sass from day one. She refused to eat her food without it being warmed up and covered in gravy, and she’d chase after us as she ran through the grass that may have been taller than her little legs.
Although she had the attitude of a 15-year-old girl attempting to extend her curfew, she learned to trust each of us, she learned to protect us and most importantly she grew to love us.
Why she did all of these things I’m not sure…we sort of tormented the poor thing. We’d put her on the trampoline and laughed as she stared at ground in awe, wondering how she was supposed to get down. (Let’s be realistic she was never on it for more than 45 seconds at a time.)
She was the perfect size to serve as the cargo in my brother’s metal Tonka Dump truck and she often went for rides in it against her own will. Which probably explains why she had such an attitude, I mean, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t?
She was known as the “devil dog” after playfully attacking my brother’s 6th grade buddies. She got my parents in trouble when we had her “fixed,” because the surgical procedure led to the vet finding a perfectly intact bouncy ball that she had ingested prior to the surgery. If you wore gloves while building snowmen or snow forts, I hope you were prepared to wrestle and most likely lose the battle of keeping your glove. Don’t worry though, you’d have it back in about a week.
As I grew up, she did too. She became my running partner that didn’t require a leash. She was the family member that was equally as terrified at thunderstorms and often “coincidently” ended up in my room. She served as the perfect dumpster to hide the evidence of bad cooking. (Sorry, Mom.)
But the one thing I never expected her to be, the one thing I took for granted, as I became an adult was the fact that this dog became my best friend.
When my parents got divorced, I was in high school. We had two cars full of items that we needed to move to our new location and as any angry teenager should, I fought to keep my dog. “We’ll come back for her,” was the line I heard from my mom. Yeah, right. She wasn’t planning on coming back for the dog, she wasn’t planning on coming back in general. So, naturally, I threw a fit and managed to clear out the front seat of my little Sunfire so my golden retriever could ride shotgun as we moved from Watertown, South Dakota to good ol’ Perham, MN.
I cried the entire way as I recognized how different my life would be from that moment on. She knew the heartbreak I was going through then and laid across the center console to nudge my hand and keep her head in my lap. She served as my shoulder to cry on through all of the emotional ups and downs in high school: breakups, stereotypical high school drama and even losing some of my family members. She saw me graduate, pack up my things and move away for college. Then, three years later she saw my brother do the same thing.
From that point on, our “Welcome Homes” started with her, and our “See you soons,” ended with her as I would pack up my car and take a selfie with the dog that seemed to getting a little more grey each time I saw her. She protected my nephew as he fished on the dock and entertained him by diving for the rocks he through into the water. She was patient as he tried to ride her aging body and welcomed his younger brother into the world when it was time with a wagging tail.
I celebrated my college graduation by spending time with my dad and stepmom, then going to “the lake” for a weekend to see my mom and “pup.” I got my first big girl job. I became an “adult.”
All of these mile markers happened. I was in denial as I assumed my dog was going to be here forever.
On Tuesday night, I got a text that made my heart sink. “Neighbor just helped me haul Missy up from the lake. She can’t walk.” I called my mom to figure out what was going on to hear a sobbing mess answer the phone. I instantly realized that my dog, my confidant and my best fur friend would die. I cried and forced Mom to FaceTime me throughout the night from our garage floor to make sure she stayed with Missy and to see the truth. The once tiny Tonka Trunk Driver was now grey, fragile and struggling to stay strong for the tears falling around her…about her.
It’s funny how much an animal can teach us about love.
I hear the most wonderful feeling in the world is loving someone and having that love come back to you in return. I hear that’s what brings the most joy and happiness into our lives. To love and to be loved.
I couldn’t talk much through the sobs, but what I wanted to say to her, what I wanted her to hear from me, what she should have heard from me, was what I was too afraid to say because I wanted to think it wasn’t true. I wanted to hope she’d swing back to the dog I wanted to keep forever. The dog that had become my best friend. I wanted to be there, laying on the garage floor with her and my mom. I wanted to tell her that she’s brought me more happiness than I could possibly imagine.
I wanted to tell her that I promise not to date boys she wouldn’t growl at or nudge herself between if I gave them a hug. I wanted to ask her who would eat my leftover food. I wanted to tell her that it was OK to let go and I wanted to mean it as she sat with her head in my lap rather than my mom’s.
I wanted to say thank you for being my best friend for the last 15 years.
I wanted to say, “I love you and always will.”
I wanted to say, I’d do it all again. I’d feel this heartbreak if I knew I could have her, only her, again.
I’d do it all again for the love of my dog.