A Dog’s Life



On Sunday night, during my usual FaceTime with my family, my dog started acting strange. On Monday morning, she was put down, hundreds and hundreds of miles away from me. This was the worst possible way this could’ve gone, in every sense. If it hadn’t been a Sunday, but a Friday. If it hadn’t struck right at the start of finals week, if it could’ve waited just nine more days until I was home, if it hadn’t come at night, if we had had any sort of warning. If it didn’t have to happen at all. Unfortunately, that’s not how life works, and tragedy strikes where and when it is least expected or wanted. I didn’t get to choose the passing of my dog, or my hedgehog, or any other of life’s gut-wrenching surprises. I am so, so sad that she is gone, but the hardest part was putting her happiness above mine.

In theory, yes, my sweet pet could have been kept alive until I got home next Wednesday, or until I had cobbled together enough assignments to leave immediately. But this would have been so detrimental to her health and happiness, all to let me say goodbye. My dog has never once put her own wants above anyone else’s, giving love and expecting nothing in return. I know that everyone thinks their dog is the best, but mine really was. Here, at last, was a chance for me to give that love back to her, but I didn’t expect it to be so very hard.

I had intended to write an article about what I’ve learned during my first year of college, summarizing the ups and downs. My friends who went to school in state visit home frequently, a luxury I am not permitted. This event was by far the hardest part. My complete inability to do anything at all, my total reliance on others to keep me updated, and my isolation from the people who loved both me and my dog were obstacles nearly impossible to overcome. Worst of all, life goes on.

I still have presentations to give and tests to take, papers to write and problems to solve. My own personal catastrophe doesn’t mean that the world stops spinning and my obligations disappear. My father’s plane ticket is still booked, the expectation of a fun-filled tour of Atlanta hovering on the horizon, wavering. I still need to pack, and wish my roommate well, and do all these things that I in no way at all want to do. It’s just not fair. It’s not. And there is absolutely nothing I can do.

The grief stays with me, flaring up at the most unusual moments-- in the middle of math class, or watching the same show I watched earlier that fateful Sunday evening. There’s a constant feeling that I’m forgetting something. In the middle of Pancake Jam, happy, all of a sudden it hits me, and I feel guilty and sad all at once. Some might say that it’s just a dog, and to that, I say they’ve never had one. When our previous dog died, we swore we’d never get another because it hurts so much to let go. In the end, that’s exactly why we got another dog. The brilliant memories we create with our pets is what makes it worth the pain. I am devastated that I didn’t get to spend as much time as possible with my dog during the final year of her life, but I am comforted by the fact that I loved her every second I knew her. No dog has ever been more loved or will be more missed. I continue to live my life in the knowledge that that’s what she (in her doggy little mind) would have wanted. The lesson our beloved pets teach us (as cheesy as it may sound) is to live and love wholeheartedly, as though every day might be our unexpected last.

All photos courtesy of the author.