There are some things that I need to tell you before you go, my pup. The other day when we played the stick game that’s always been your favorite, I understood that time has passed without me, somehow. Of course, I know how old you are, you’ve been with us from the age of five weeks, but suddenly, here we are, marking your 14th year, and I, for my own benefit, have allowed the hints of your age to go unnoticed, as if by mere acknowledgment what is already the truth will simply be too much for me to bare. I don’t want to put my burdens on you, like I’ve always done. I just need to say these things now, before you go, because once you’re gone the words will clog in my throat and hinder my speech, and while I know you’ll hear them anyway, I need to be holding you close, stroking your soft ears, and receiving your loving puppy dog smooches as I say them. I will tell you the truth, as you’ve always done for me. This is the Story of Your Life, my dear one, and I will try to inject the same honesty, loyalty, joy and love that you’ve so selflessly given throughout the story of mine.
From that very first day, so long ago, a lifetime ago really, as I was virtually a child and certainly acted like one, there was something different about you. I like to think that what makes you so special was meant for me, and how wonderful that it arrived in the form of a wet nosed and wiggly puppy. You’ve always been well mannered and behaved, so it couldn’t have been you who stole the pot roast right off the kitchen table and gobbled it up quickly, before there was any hope of it’s salvation. We even wrote a jaunty poem for the occasion:
“Cujo, Cujo, Brianna’s son. Stole a roast and away he run.”
Luckily, we found this hilarious and so you weren’t reprimanded over it, nor were you the time you ate the pound of butter which you proceeded to vomit up in about 50 different locations of the house! We agreed that everyone makes mistakes, especially rambunctious tweens, which is what you would have been at the time. When you were small, there was nothing better than a ride in the truck. You were so tiny that you’d crawl up dad’s chest and get yourself comfy cozy in the curve of his neck. A little later, when you entered the awkward phase, it became apparent that you had a very strange relationship with the windshield wipers. You loved ’em, but at the same time you HATED ’em. It’s just occurred to me that it’s been quite awhile since I’ve had to wipe nose and tongue smears from my windshield, but then, I guess we all grow up at some point. There are so many Cujo stories that to tell them all now would take years, but I promise I will tell some to you everyday, before you go.
There are no words to perfectly define what I hold in my heart for you. I will try to remember each and every nickname you’ve inspired for yourself over the years, several of which I’m sure you hate being that you’re a tough and strong pit bull, (” You know it’s Middy Doo, when the rugs are all askew”) but you’ve always come when called, no matter the nickname used,( even ” Tootie Fruity,”) provided a “delicious treat” is waiting for you.
While your doggly attributes are vast, it’s the deeper, secret parts of you that make you so very special. Those things about you that even perfect strangers have no trouble picking up on. Do you remember how sad it was when Grampa left us? Gram became very sick and depressed and you refused to leave the spot beside her on the bed for days. She later told me that it was you who saved her. It was you who gave the comfort and companionship she so desperately needed to make it through such a terrible time. It’s like you were born with an intrinsic radar that is capable of picking up the wide range of emotions in the humans around you. It’s like you’re a human yourself, only far better at it than any of us can hope to be.
I need you to know that we’ll be OK as I can tell that’s something that already worries you. Strange for a long time, but OK. I know I promised you the truth, Froggy Doggy, and the truth is that I don’t know life without you. I was 17 the day you wagged your tail into our hearts and now I’m in my 30’s. An entire novel has been written in the time between and I just don’t know how to write the remaining chapters without you in them as you’re a main character. My friend, you’ve done your job too well. There will never be another worthy of the name “Tootin’ Heimer Schmidt.” And that’s the truth.
I suppose that what I really need you to know, before you go, is how much I thank you. Your burden in life has been the worry you feel for our family, and I want to thank you for the hourly perimeter checks, for how safe I feel when dad’s not home, just because I have you, and most importantly, for loving and protecting my babies in a way that shows me you understand how important they are. You’ve never been jealous or cruel. You’ve never snapped, even under the utmost of provocation. Your role in our family is one I will try in vein to replace, once I figure out just how exactly, I’m going to continue without you. Together, pup dog, we’ve pretty much seen it all. You, more than anyone, has seen me at my most desperate and tortured, frenzied and stressed, angry and malicious, unsure and terrified. And it’s you, more than anyone, that I can trust with the parts of me I’d rather no one see. I will wait, watch and listen for a sign that you’re with me, if not physically, at least in spirit. Your name may float to me in the whisper of the wind, or perhaps I’ll feel the faintest hint of your tail brush my arm while I’m sleeping. I’ll awaken and put my palm to my cheek, where the memory of your sweet puppy kisses is but a vague tingle.
You are my best friend, my constant companion, my canine soul mate, my safe place, and I love you so very much. It will be these things I’ll murmur into the silky folds of your floppy ” bat dog” ear just before you go. Take them as your truth, my pup. Take them with you so that a piece of me might come too.