Saying Goodbye To The First Love Of My Life: My Dog


Now that she's gone, I realize Chica helped me learn how to give and receive love.

It has been six months since I lost my Chica, "The World's Greatest Dog." It has taken me this long to write or talk about it because the enormity of her loss is overwhelming. 

So, I thought I would share the highlights of what I learned from her as many of you have your own "World's Greatest Dog" that you're missing, appreciating, not appreciating, loving or finding you have less time for.

Dear Chica,

Throughout the nine years and 11 months that you were our family dog you were there for four moves, three babies and lots of changes.

When I first laid eyes on you, I had never given birth before. I was young, just started my first job, newly married and I wanted my own puppy. Little did I know that getting a cute puppy would change my heart and life forever. 

Before bringing you home, I was so excited to go to the pet store and buy a crate, a bed, a blanket, toys, dog food and bowls. I had interviewed and chosen a veterinarian that understood the giant breed that was you, a French Mastiff, and I proudly displayed a Mastiff book on our coffee table. 

We visited you after you were born, counting the weeks until we could take you home. We had the luxury to drive out 40 minutes, watch you play for an hour, and then drive home talking about how cute you were- the runt of the litter.

Life was good. Life was easy. I didn't know it at the time, but it really was.

When September 11, 2004 came around, it was time to bring you home. Driving you home, I  already started to feel the fragility of loving you, simply because at that moment you were small, soft, a little scared and all of a sudden I was responsible for someone other than myself. 

I was immediately protective of you. I carried you around like a baby even when I was shown the proper way to "handle" a puppy. 

I hand fed you, thought about you when I was at work and couldn't wait to get home to see you.

I was officially in love and also officially exhausted.  Taking you out to house train and keeping up with your energy was at times exhausting.  But looking back, I now know it was you training me.

You, and you alone, single-handedly prepared me to become a mother. You opened my heart to depths I never knew existed.  I experienced unconditional love, truly unconditional, no strings or expectations attached love from you every day until the moment you died. 

I practiced picking up poop and not thinking that was gross, I cleaned up vomit. I rushed you to the doctor if you were sick, I had fun buying you toys, collars and leashes.  I set up play dates and took you to dog parks, I even had a first birthday party for you! 

I carried around wallet sized pictures of you and proudly showed them to anyone who showed even remote interest.

You were who I was concerned about when I found out I was first pregnant. How were you going to handle it? What should I do to prepare you? Would you change? 

Everyone told me to just wait, they said that as soon I had a baby, you would take a back seat and that I wouldn’t care about you in nearly the same way.  I was determined to not allow that to happen.

But, over time, it did ... and no longer were you the center of my universe who I ran home to see. 

It was a slow process but after a while it seemed you were in the way of getting to my babies. You were now the last one to eat, sometimes I forgot to fill your water bowl, and I even started delegating walking you to others because I was too overwhelmed. 

Now instead of you sleeping in our room, eventually you were replaced by a baby or toddler.  

The only thing that set me apart from those who swore this would happen is that I absolutely, without a doubt cared. I never loved you any less and if anything the most "mommy guilt" that I have ever experienced was about you.  

When we would get our walks in I cherished them. And then, they started making me sad because I saw you were slowing down, not pulling me like you had for so many years. 

And when friends came over, they commented on how grey you were becoming. And we started having to lift you in the car. And you started hacking for no reason. And you started leaving blood marks where you laid.  And your back legs started to give when trying to stand up.

And then you got cancer.  Damn that cancer.

The last year of your life, I knew time was not on our side. I knew if we could get to that 10-year mark, the one many Mastiffs don't reach, that I had done my job.  Well, we fell one month short. 

I wish I had one more month with you. I wish we never had to be in a position to make the choice to put you to sleep. I just hope that in your last moments you know you were loved and appreciated.  And that all the love you showed us was returned back to you. 

You changed my world and therefore the world of many others. Anyone who was ever scared of a big dog quickly fell in love with you. To know you was to love you. People who were not even dog lovers loved you.

You had a human like quality about you but had the heart of a dog- which made you perfect. There will never be another you. And there will never be the old me ... because you forever changed my life. 

I think of you and miss you every single day and that is one thing that will never change.