Dogs are great hunters and protectors. They are loyal. They are smart. But those who have truly loved a dog know that their greatest character trait is unconditional love. My husband may grow tired or annoyed at me, my kids may scream, "I hate you" (which I'm sure has only happened to me) and I may be a crappy daughter or daughter-in-law sometimes, but my dog Shade loved me everyday, every time, and always. When I got home, she greeted me with joy. Everytime-no exceptions. When I was sad, distraught, lonely, forgotten, Shade made me feel like the most amazing, best person in the world. I never left a room without her following me, laying down at my feet, and staying at my side.
My first miscarriage was at 14 weeks. I was literally in complete depression, watching "P.S. I love You", eating Puffy Cheetohs, drinking Pepsi, and wallowing in a pile of loathing self-pity. And curled up next to me; my best friend. When I was finally pregnant with our first child, Shade could tell this would change her life. She seemed worried, nervous, and stayed even closer to me, almost watching each step I took. Bringing home my oldest daughter Blake was an adjustment for all of us, including Shade, but she never once treated our baby as anything less than precious... something to protect and watch out for. As our family grew, our dog's heart grew to, watching and taking care of each new member of the family. When they wanted to go outside, I felt safe knowing their big black lab babysitter would be with them. At our farm while I ride horses, the girls would play in the sandbox or ride their tractor and their protector would keep an eye on them as she roamed around the pasture, looking for lost tennis balls.
At my Aunt's cabin, located high in the La Salle Mountains, I could let the kids wander all about the mountains, as long as they could see the cabin and as long as their dog was with them.
People who question why I let a big dog live inside my house will never understand the role she plays in my family, and not just in increasing the times I vacuum.
This is why. The comfort, the joy, the peace of mind having a dog in your home offers is inmeasurable for a mother of children.
I loved that Shade could enjoy any activity and make it that much more fun for myself, my husband, and my children. Her love and joy for life gave me a love and joy for life.
After we said goodbye, we read this book by Cynthia Rylant. It describes all about how a dog deserves heaven, and what that heaven will be like for them. A sweet, heart-wrenching, precious memory I will have forever... reading this to my family with tears rolling down our faces, imagining Shade playing with Paige, Zip, Buck, River, Duke, and Wags... All our dogs that have gone before her.
Our last two days with Shade have been tough, but beautiful. These children and their mom and dad will never forget their best friend Shade.
I miss the sound of her nails on my hardwood floor, following me from room to room, checking up on the kids, laying under my feet.
But what will be the hardest will be coming home to an empty house, with no one there to greet me.
I keep asking myself why I would ever do this again, it is so hard to say goodbye. But then I remember how dogs love unconditionally, how children need a dog to play with, and I need a dog to trust and love and to be my best friend. Maybe, sometime, we will hear the sounds of paws on our floors again. But they will never replace Shade, they will simply fill another space in our hearts.