I’ve always been known as the dramatic one in my family. I was really into being the center of attention as a child, and my Aunts never really let me forget about it. I like to think that I have gotten a bit better about this as I have gotten older, but I know I have my moments. I just have a lot of...emotion.
That all being said, my dog Wilson was put down yesterday.
I’m pretty sure that dogs are God’s way of letting us know that true happiness exists. They love us unconditionally, they give us comfort when we need it, and they are the only animal I can think of that becomes close companions with humans and whose souls attempt to outlive their bodies. I’m a dog person, in case you haven’t picked up on it. Wilson was the second dog I have ever known and he stuck with me through a lot, I think he deserves a few words, so I’m going to use this forum to give them to him.
We got Wilson after I tricked my Mom into checking out “volunteer options” at the Humane Society. We went, found out I needed to be at least 16 to volunteer on my own, and before heading back home I asked if we could check out the dogs inside. After significantly less push than I thought it would require, my Mother relented, and so we walked into the main building. We looked around the puppy room for a while and ogled at the cuteness that cannot be denied in the presence of tiny doggies, before heading into the larger kennel area. I remember seeing a long row of cages and slowly walking up and down seeing if anybody caught my eye.
My Mom was the one who found him, and when I think back, it really couldn’t have been any other way. He was laying down on the floor of his kennel, the only dog not pitching a fit, with his nose poking out between the mesh of the door. He wagged his tail when my Mom went to pet his muzzle, and I think that was pretty much the end of it. I remember her telling me I had to call my Dad while we were driving back in the car, and my Dad distinctly saying something about “No way, let me talk to your mother.” She confirmed it, and a few days later we were out there again so that the whole family could meet him.
I remember being disappointed that he wasn’t multicolored, I thought multi colored dogs were more interesting, maybe it was just because Jessie, our first dog, was a german shepard mix. Wilson was jet black, with a long coat like a golden retriever, and it wouldn’t take long for me to find out he was not at all lacking in the personality department. Dad always speculated (after getting compliments from multiple dog owners) that he was a pure bred black coat retriever and that we could have made money off his puppies if only we hadn’t chopped his balls off. I have no doubt in my mind that Wilson, had we known him then, would have been the most adorable, fuzz ball of a puppy.
We brought him home after the mandatory waiting period expired on him as a stray. We literally adopted him on his first day on the market; we knew a dog like this wouldn’t have lasted long at the shelter. We were heading up north so he went to stay with my Aunt and Uncle for a while. He caused a ruckus, broke out of the house through the screened in porch and ran lose around the neighborhood until later that evening. I maintain to this day that Wilson would get more excited when my Uncle Bill and Aunt Beth came over, than any other visitor, because he remembered them.
He finally came home with us, and after a week or so settled in wonderfully. His name at the pound had been "Noah" but my family are "Home Improvement" fans, and "Cast Away" had just came out, so we decided on the name Wilson. Wilson loved to run through the park, in the woods, around the neighborhood when he got out, wherever. He loved water, though it seemed to perplex the living day lights out of him since we would doggy paddle around and then snap or bark when he splashed himself in the face. He loved butt rubs, and would lean into whichever side you happened to be scratching him on. For the first and only time, my siblings and I fought over who got to walk him first.
But I think the most remarkable thing about Wilson, was that he seemed to sense emotion better than any dog I have ever known. The most poignant example of this happened in my senior year in high school. I came home after having a conversation with a good friend who happened to have a rare form of cancer called osteogenic sarcoma. My friend had gathered three of us around to let us know that hospice was moving in, and that she didn’t expect to live much longer. It was, and remains to be, the most heartbreaking conversation I have ever had in my life. I managed to keep it together in the car as another friend drove me home, but the second I got inside I collapsed onto our couch sobbing uncontrollably. My family immediately cocooned me with love, including Wilson. He paced in front of the couch and as soon as there was space, climbed up (in that way where he thought he was being sneaky, but he was really too big for that at this point) he started to lick my face and snuggle into me.
He may not have known exactly what was going on, but he knew I needed him, and that was all that mattered. He did the same thing on the day of her funeral, and every time I needed a moment of comfort in the months following, he was there. Wilson was the fluffy reminder that there is such thing as unconditional love at those moments when my family seemed to need it most. He greeted us with enthusiasm and excitement each time we walked through the door after a shitty day, he snuggled us on the couch when we were feeling cold (or if there was just an inch of space that wasn’t being occupied), he went on walks with us, he gave us kisses, and he let us know that we were his greatest source of joy and love when we felt like we couldn’t do anything right.
I have no doubt that if you have ever loved a dog, that they have done this for you as well. That is why dogs are amazing, that is why they are God’s fuzzy angels.
So you can imagine how it broke my heart to know that after 14 years on this earth, that is was time for Wilson to go home. And so yesterday, December 4th, 2013, Wilson went to those endless fields in the sky, where tennis balls are forever thrown and belly rubs flow endlessly from a sea of loving hands. I won’t lie, it was hard to keep it in while reading the message from my Mom. I turned into this silently sobbing wreck in the corner of the library, and I can imagine the guys sitting at the table with me may have been a bit weirded out.
Its hard, I knew this was coming, but I was kind of hoping he would hold out till I got home to say "goodbye." It felt like for all the times he was there for me, I should be able to be there for him in this last moment. But I know he was surrounded by love, I know that my family did right by him, and I know that he has been chomping on turkey leftovers from Thanksgiving and working those big puppy dog eyes for extra treats since the cancer in his leg got bad. Maybe this wouldn't be so hard if I didn't miss home so badly anyways.
So I walked back from work, dropped my stuff off, and did what any good Irish Catholic person would do in a time of loss. I bought a pint of whiskey, I made a ton of food, and I poured a shot out for my dog.
Maybe it’s a little emotional, but it seemed like the right thing to do.