I’ve never had a dog before my dog, Hank. So I’ve never been through the loss of a dog either. This week, I had to put down my friend of 14 years. And it was every bit as hard as they say it is.
Not just because he was a loyal dog. But also because of the kinship we've had after living together for so long. I’ve felt haunted by his absence all week, still hearing the sounds of his feet on the stairs, still feeling him sleeping next to the bed. And I still wake up ready to take our morning walk.
Guess I’m gonna need to find a new reason to exercise.
But the most striking observation in a grief-riddled week is that—somewhere along the way—he and I changed roles. I remember when he was a puppy, I felt like I was taking care of him. I taught him commands. I socialized him at dog parks. I made sure he was brought up with as much love as I could give.
What I’m learning since he’s been gone is that he figured out how to take care of me, too. He nuzzled me when I had a hard time waking up. He encouraged me to play fetch with him when I was feeling down. He sat at my feet while I practiced the piano, as if he knew I needed an audience.
I tear up just writing it.
Reader, it's been a hard week in the country, and a hard week at home. If you’re lucky enough to have the love of an animal in your life, give them a little extra love in return. That animal is doing more for you than you know. See you next Monday. -Em