Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Life Lessons from TBDE (The best dog ever!)


Our family lost a friend yesterday.  And the grieving is continuing.  Who was our friend? She was truly TBDE (The Best Dog Ever).  She was my first dog, and at 38 years old, I wasn't sure I had the capacity to love any dog.  But at the time, the begging of my four children combined with the sentimental stories of my husband's childhood dog had gotten the best of me.

With the kids in tow, I headed out to visit a shelter that had reached out to me about a candidate that might fill our needs.  The kids had been briefed that this did not GUARANTEE we were coming home with a dog, and sure enough, when we arrived we discovered that the dog we had come to meet was already spoken for.  Disappointment was shared all around, but we decided to just look at the other dogs in the cages in the back room.  I was not expecting to be interested in any one of these dogs, who had already been "screened and not deemed appropriate for our needs".  As we walked through the aisles, my anxiety level was high...because I was not a true dog person.  The barking and sadness was quite overwhelming to me, and frankly, I wanted to finish our look/see with my kids and head home.  But there near the end of the chaotic noisy aisle, sat a golden dog.  She sat so quietly, with her deep, puddles of brown staring earnestly into my heart.  It felt like slow motion as I reached my hand towards her and she quietly and gracefully raised her face and gently licked my hand, as if to say, "I choose you".

When my brain took back my thoughts from my hijacked heart, I realized that she was a bedraggled looking creature; ribs visible, scar over her right eye, nothing really attractive about her but those earnestly loving eyes and soft pink tongue.  We took it to the next step, allowed her to interact with the children and then called my husband at work.  "We have found our dog!" I exclaimed.  "You need to drive out here and meet her before the shelter will allow the adoption."  My husband made the 30 mile drive from his office and had one question "Are you sure THIS is the dog you want?" he asked.  He was skeptical given her somewhat forlorn look, but he could feel that in my heart the decision had already been made.  So against his better judgement, even against what most rational people would decide...he acquiesced and it was decided that she would be our dog.

And what a dog she was.  With our family's love and attention, she blossomed.  Her golden coat grew in thick and soft.  Her body filled out and became strong and healthy. She would run like the breeze, prance delicately through the snow, and curl up gently by a fire.  She was quiet, and never relied upon her bark to communicate.  Her presence was enough.  She was a loving, gentle soul who always preferred children to adults and had a grace and elegance about her that I found irresistible.  She of course had her moments, like when she climbed on the kitchen table one day to eat the kid's sandwiches, or squeezed through the slats of the lake house deck to join us down on the beach, or found a porcupine and took quills to the chin on a late night romp with my sister's dog and her friend, Casey.

But she taught me many lessons.  I never knew what it was like to love a dog.  I never knew what it felt like to have a four legged friend who was always happy to see you.  Her calmness calmed me.  Her gentleness and loving nature was a gift to our whole family.  When someone was having a bad day they could always find some peace and comfort by petting her and just being near her.

Yesterday, we lost TBDE.  She lived a long life.  Our vet said that she was his oldest patient.  And even in the end, she was helping us realize it was time to say goodbye.  Today there is an absence.  No paws following me into the kitchen, no brown puddle eyes to greet me, no golden soft fur to stroke but a head full of memories about the dog who changed our lives for good.
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