The Gift of a Dog’s Friendship
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** This post is part of a 14 day series. To read more of my “The Gift of…” posts, scroll to the bottom of this post for links.
A few years ago, my husband and I sat in the vet’s office, hearing the words I had known the vet would say after she examined our almost 12 year old Labrador retriever, Roscoe.
“…there really isn’t much we can do…with his age being what it is…”
Carrying Roscoe to the car that morning, we all sensed he wouldn’t come back home. Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, he suddenly could no longer walk and started sneezing up blood. I assumed he had a tumor somewhere in his nasal cavity or brain.
Unfortunately, I was right. And, coupled with his age and other growing health issues, there was nothing we could do.
So there I sat in the tiny exam room at the vet clinic, bawling like a baby, while my husband and I put our hands on Roscoe and the vet put him to sleep.
Roscoe. The dog that drove me nuts.
Roscoe and I had a special relationship from the beginning.
See, he’s the dog who chewed up slippers. Blankets. He even chewed up a pair of my glasses.
On one particular occasion when we weren’t home, he dug out of his outdoor kennel and scratched out the window screens of our house trying to get in, thinking we were inside.
He was always scratching.
When he was younger, one vet explained it as severe separation anxiety and told me, “I’ve never met a dog quite like him.”
That’s the truth. There never was a dog quite like Roscoe.
And yet—surprise, surprise…
As it turns out, the dog I would curse at (a lot) in the middle of the day was the same dog who would curl up next to me in bed in the middle of the night.
Strange how that happens.
I mean, why does that happen?
It’s like they know. It’s like they have some dog superpower that melts your brain—and heart—while you sleep.
My husband still points out that even though I claim to have had no love for that dog, I still ugly cried when he was put to sleep.
(Also, excuse me for a moment. I need another Kleenex.)
Dog as companion: is it worth it?
I’ve met some people who say they won’t have a dog because it’s just not worth it.
It’s not worth all the tears and sadness at the end.
It’s just too hard.
It’s not worth getting attached when you know you’re going to have to say goodbye.
And I mean, it makes sense. I completely understand why someone would say that.
It’s just that I disagree.
I take comfort in knowing I was there at the beginning (twelve years earlier) to choose and bring that eight-week-old, roly-poly pudgy little Roscoe puppy home—you guys, he was so fat—and I was there twelve years later when his life was mercifully brought to an end.
Yes, it was hard.
But, a furry friendship isn’t necessarily about the beginning or the end. It’s about the many millions of things that happen in between.
When they sit at your feet. When they curl up next to you in bed. When they run around and wrestle with you on the floor. When they are goofy and nutty and ridiculous. When they stare at you and you swear they know just what you’re thinking. When you can talk to them, and no one else, because they won’t laugh at you.
And yes, even when they chew up your glasses or scratch out your screens.
Now, I have Cash.
Our farm is now home to Cash—a black lab golden retriever rescue that was always meant to be a country dog. His sweet face makes me giggle, and his expressive eyes make me believe there is a human being trapped inside his body.
Sometimes, I scrunch his face up in my hands and I mash my palms around his wobbly jowls. I stare into his eyes and know that he won’t last forever.
And I hate that.
But for as much as I hate the thought that someday I’ll be sitting at his side, obnoxiously sobbing as he takes his last breath—I love what we have now.
I love his goofiness.
I love his fierce protection from scary garbage trucks and flapping flags and raccoons he’s treed.
I love how warm he is on my lap (even though he doesn’t fit on my lap. At all.)
I love that he cleans up my kitchen messes.
I love his perfectly timed sighs and groans that seem to fit exactly into whatever conversation he’s within earshot of.
I love that I always know he will greet me with a bark and a hop and a kiss and a favorite toy when I come through the door.
And I won’t give that up simply because of the harsh, stabbing knowledge that it will someday end.
Friendship from a dog is a gift. And I hope that in your lifetime you are able—and willing—to experience it many, many times.
This post is part of a 14 day series, written across both sites that I run.
Gift #1 — The Gift of an Open Door
Gift #2 — The Gift of One of Those Days
Gift #3 — The Gift of a Dog’s Friendship
Gift #4 — The Gift of Mess
Gift #5 — The Gift of Our Silence
Gift #6 — The Gift of Routine
Gift #7 — The Gift of Community
Gift #8 — The Gift of Three Things Unsaid
Gift #9 — The Gift of Perspective
Gift #10 — The Gift of Being Real
Gift #11 — The Gift of a Bowl of Corn
Gift #12 — The Gift of Encouragement
Gift #13 — The Gift of Unanswered Prayers
Gift #14 — The Gift of Actually Listening