I Got My Dog Tattooed on My Arm

My father indirectly bought me Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley when he handed me $20 in the Orlando Airport while we were on our way home from vacation in 2016. I used his money to buy a 305 page book about a journalist and his journey through grief after he discovered his elderly dog was dying of brain cancer. I finished the book before we even touched down in Chicago. With each page I turned I found my own feelings tangled in the words that spoke volumes about the unconditional love between man and their loyal companion. Happy words were intertwined with words of fear, sadness and grief and every ounce of my being wishes that I couldn't relate to this book. Every cell in my body wishes that my best friend was a puppy was still here and was once more obnoxiously running around in our backyard chasing after rabbits and squirrels.

Once I turned the last page I heard the music and it was blaring. Over the next year lumps and bumps made a home under the chocolate brown fur of my innocent pup. The failing lungs of a once rowdy dog decided how long he could enjoy walks and how well he slept. After being gifted with an extra year, I finally made the decision to put him down after a brain tumor took the light out of my best friend’s eyes. But before he died Rowley's book inspired a more permanent way I could remember my best friend. There was a time 11 years ago that I remember feeling exactly how I feel now. The warm, July sun was just beginning its descent from the sky when I had finally taught Buddy how to stay in our yard and not wander off. After working on this all day with him, I was feeling very proud of thw work we accomplished when in a flash he darted across the street after a rabbit. Before I knew it, I was sprinting down the block after my "trained" dog. I don’t even remember thinking about running after him. It was just a natural reflex. My legs were moving faster than I ever felt possible and in the blink of an eye my dog and the rabbit disappeared into a cornfield. In this moment I started screaming. I was screaming in such agony my neighbor came outside to see what was dying in her backyard. The only thought racing through my 13-year-old mind was that I lost my dog forever and he was never going to come home. As I tried to run in the cornfield after my dog, my neighbor held me back and attempted to calm me down. I don't think there was a second the air wasn't filled with cry of sadness that escaped me as I was trying to call my puppy home. After what felt like hours, he finally came prancing out of the cornfield. Out of anger I tackled my him so he couldn't wander away again and picked him up so we could go home. As tears were still rolling down my face, my two neighbors offered to walk me home. On the short walk back across the street feelings of sadness and anger were still pulsing through my veins. For a few minutes of my life I thought I was never going to see my dog again. I wish I could yell his name in hopes that his youth would come prancing back so I could pick him up and we could go home together but life is different now. Instead of being 13 and standing alone in my neighbor's backyard I'm 23 and living alone in Milwaukee. I'm feeling the same sadness and anger I felt that July day 11 years ago. Instead of chasing a rabbit though, my puppy has chased life. Instead of finding himself in a cornfield he has found himself in heaven. 

I knew my dog was dying and this was my way of grieving. Most people judge and roll their eyes when they see my tattoo because they don't understand it. I get called a crazy dog lady a lot and most people laugh because don't understand the bond I had with my dog. Honestly though, I don’t care.  My inked four-legged pal's purpose is to remind me of the puppy that helped me get through my first heartbreak. It's there to remind me of the comfort I felt around him when I moved back home after being raped my sophomore year of college. It’s there for me to remember the 15 years of happiness my best friend gave me. And most importantly, it's there to remind me how my best friend taught me to love unconditionally.

Steve at Good Land Tattoo on Oakland Avenue in Milwaukee did an impeccable job taking my ideas and transforming them into a tangible piece of artwork. He captured my best friend’s quirky and lovable personality perfectly. My inked friend is wandering through five flowers on my arm. These five flowers not only represent his favorite thing to do which was exploring my mom’s flower garden but there is one flower for each of my five immediate family member’s whose lives he touched. Lastly, Buddy's tan coloring on his feet made it look like he was wearing cowboy boots. These tan little boots happened to be one of my favorite things about the outside of my pup and the inked version had to have them too. The adventures with my best friend have come to an end and I have been slowly coming to terms with how life works but even though he might not be wandering around my parents’ house anymore, Buddy will always be by my side as a memory and now forever as a permanently inked pup on my arm.