Family – how we define this is so different for so many people. As a person in the parenting space, we don’t often talk about the other beings that we raise and parent, our pets.
Many of us get that first pet at the early stages of our marriage to see if we are ready for kids. In my first marriage, we decided to get a dog. From the first time I saw Pepper, I knew she was mine. She was a 4 month old black ball of fur, and a little shy to others, but she came right up to me, and snuggled. What I didn’t know then, was that I needed Pepper to help me in my dysfunctional marriage. I was lonely and craving touch. I need affection that I wasn’t getting, and I needed unconditional love.
Over the course of the next 6 months or so, I really learned, that my now ex-husband wasn’t capable of taking care of another being, or putting anyone else’s needs above his own. And my marriage ended.
This left me to care for this puppy dog myself. I learned how to lean on friends, neighbors, and I hired a lot of dog walkers, because I lived in an apartment building.
For a couple of years it was just me and Pepper. I cried in her super soft fluffy fur during the years my divorce lasted. We walked, went to the beach, and played. But mostly she was my snuggler, my dependent who I took care of and raised from puppyhood.
With her love, I recovered, and found the man of my dreams.
When Cap and I finally became pregnant with our little girl, we read all the things to do so that Pepper would be ok with the new baby. I was so nervous coming home from the hospital with the baby, and we had a roommate who had a golden retriever who was sweet, but very energetic and clumsy, I started to freak out, and Pepper hopped between the other dog, and Mackenzie, and protected Mackenzie. I remember my mother in-law, saying, she was now officially a fan of Pepper after the way she was with the baby.
Pepper has been great for our kids. She has always been the best at picking up all the food everywhere. She has patience and care, she has let the kids hug her, dance with her, we even put her in a few silly costumes. She also has let both kids (especially Mason) sit on her back as if they were riding a pony. She has been a great friend to the kids as well. We have been very lucky to have this amazing family member with us for all of these years.
And now this is the part people don’t really talk about … she’s just about 15 years old. She had a stroke almost a year ago, and miraculously survived and recovered ..but not entirely. She hasn’t really been herself. She can’t see well, hear well, or walk well. She lost her ability to whine ..and with all of the kids whining, who would have thought I would miss it when the dog whines. And the reality is, I do, I really miss her whining. It’s been harder to know how she feels, and what’s been going on with her.
I miss the dog she was before the stroke, before the age has really been more noticeable.
I thought that it would be obvious when it was time to say goodbye to her, but it’s not clear – not black and white. With our cat, he got sick, and the doctor told us it was time.
But how, how am I supposed to do this? I am now the one being in charge of choosing her last day. How do I have this responsibility to choose the end. It is breaking my heart. I have been crying for months, struggling with that frog in my throat every time I think about this. It’s hard enough knowing that it is coming, to have to be the one to make this final decision about her life.
And then there is how do we tell the kids? What is the appropriate thing to tell them? How do we handle these last days, and hours?
We decided to make it a day of celebrating Pepper, and giving her things she hasn’t had in awhile. She hasn’t had a T-bone in years, and my husband bought her 2. She is having a T-Bone cooked in Bacon grease, and an entire package of bacon. We are giving her lots of hugs, and cuddles. And I keep praying….
Part of me is praying I don’t have to do this, and she will go in her sleep. But the reality is, that I will do it. I will hold her, and I will hug her, and I will be there with her for her last breath. And a part of my heart will be gone, on to heaven with her spirit. She has been such a big part of my heart, my comfort, my family and my love. My heart is full because she has been in it.
She and I have been together for over a third of my life. I only lived with my parents longer than I have lived with her.
I know this loss isn’t just mine. The kids will miss her, their first dog. My husband will miss her trying to trip him, and always being under his foot. He won’t miss tripping over her bowl. We will all notice the loss, and the missing, when we come home back in the house and she isn’t greeting us, or needing to be let out.
I will feel this the most. She is my dog, and she and I have been together the longest. She was my first fluffy child, my first responsibility as an adult, and my first family member.
I know this will be hard. This will be the empty nest, that is unspoken, the one for our fluffy family that we don’t really address.
I have always sent people prayers and condolences when they share about their lost pets, because to me – it is losing a family member.
So I say good bye to you my furry love, one of my best friends, my loyal companion, my Pepper. Please know that I have always loved you, and always will.
Goodbye Pepper-corn, Puppy-corn, Shadow, Underfoot Canaan