My darling Miss Katie,
You arrived in our lives when our lives were just coming together. Before we were married, before three noisy boys, before we owned a house, before it all came lovely Miss Katie, our first baby. When a friend of a friend had a litter of pups in need of a home, we went out expecting to take home one of the litter with your mother’s black and tan shepherd markings. But you, you joyfully yellow little pup, stole our hearts.
You came home to live in our new home just a few days after our honeymoon, and promptly turned our lives upside down. Rambunctious and clever, you failed puppy kindergarten not once but twice. You ate shoes, eyeglasses and, memorably, a can of coffee, among many other things in your puppyhood. One night I called my mother in tears, wondering how I would ever raise children if I couldn’t train this insane bundle of energy wrapped in yellow fur. And then, finally, we brought you to proper obedience class, and you became the dog you were destined to be – the perfect companion, save a few bad choices over the years. The unfortunate eating of the meringue from a lemon meringue pie comes to mind.
Once upon a time, when we thought we would never have children, I cried into your patient fur and imagined myself pushing you in a pram at the mall, a pink frilled bonnet on your head. I knew you wouldn’t mind.
Then, miraculously, there was a baby, and you welcomed him with spirited curiosity. I still remember our first night home with Tristan, how you held vigil over the mewling thing in the cradle, and how you drew my attention urgently to him with every move and sound he made. “Did you see?” you seemed to ask. “Look, it’s moving. What is it? What should we do with it?”
And then came two more babies, and you welcomed them too. Toddler Tristan howled with glee from his exersaucer as you raced silly doggy loops around the house. Curious babies pried open your lips to examine your teeth, lifted your ears and pulled your feet and tail, even used you as a step to climb onto the sofa, and you simply looked at me with your patient doggy face: “I get extra treats for this, right?” When they went too far, you opened your giant toothy jaw and used your head to shove them carefully away without even so much as a snarl.
We lost two cats and many years later found another, and you welcomed Willie with the same patience you welcomed the boys. He hissed and spat, and you sniffed curiously, and when he wanted to wrestle you rolled him across the floor like a beanbag with your careful paw. To our ongoing surprise, you never tolerated him cuddling you, though. Only people were allowed that privilege.
I miss you deeply, Katie. I miss you so much I can’t really even get my head around it yet. There’s a giant gaping hole in our lives where you’ve been for the past 14 years. Even knowing you could not, would not last forever doesn’t seem to ease the grief. Neither does knowing that in the end, you did not suffer. We think maybe you had a stroke, because yesterday morning you were more or less fine, and then you were not. And the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was to bring you to that end, and hold you until it was done. And then walk away without you.
Katie, I’m not sure I know how to say goodbye to you. Everyone who met you knows what an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime sort of dog you were. Even as I type this, I’m still listening for the sound of your endlessly growing claws on the hardwood, and picking your ubiquitous fur out of the weave of my sweater. Waking up this morning and knowing you were not on your blanket at the foot of the bed was heartbreaking all over again. I wish you were still here, that I could turn back time and that we could go for a walk together in the woods, like we did when you were a pup and had so much extra energy to burn.
Katie, you were truly an amazing dog. You taught me so much about love, and you were such an extraordinary gift in our lives. Thank you, my sweet friend. Sleep well. You are deeply and dearly loved.