This article originally started as part of a separate project. I was inspired to move it to here and to update it. Please enjoy. WARNING: YOU MAY NEED TISSUES.
Our first dog was a dachshund named Strudel. She was my mom’s dog, so she was already very old when we were born. My first memory of her is her huffing as she walked down the hallway to my mother’s bedroom. I would follow her in there and lay next to her bed to watch her sleep (which she probably only allowed because she knew I was curious). I recall also how bad her breath smelled, probably because she was so old.
After she died, I wanted a dog so badly. We would ask our mother and father if we could get a new dog, but they would usually tell us that right then, we couldn’t. I imagine there was probably more at play behind the scenes than I knew, but I choose to remain ignorant regarding that.
Then, one Easter, I contracted bronchitis. My chest hurt so I couldn’t really do much. I recall that we tried an outing, and after the first hour I hurt so bad I started crying. So suffice to say, I was a rather un-happy six-year-old (which is also why I still have problems with my chest, and probably didn’t help my asthma later on).
Easter morning, I was curled up on our couch, tired, grumpy and uncomfortable. Mom told us that the Easter Bunny had brought us something special and that my father had gone to fetch it. I wasn’t interested mostly because of how sick and miserable I was.
Then the door to the garage from the kitchen opened, and our father walked in cradling something to his chest. It was our new puppy, Jamoka Almond Fudge (yeah, Mom named her). He set her down on the floor, and Alyssa and Gabriella immediately ran over to see her. I couldn’t get up, but I asked Mom anxiously if the new puppy could sit with me on the couch. Mom brought her over, and I scooped her up to hold her.
To this day, sitting here, I can still recall how soft her fur was, and that her breath was the typical puppy breath, warm and wet on my nose. She had hetero-chromia so one eye was green (sometimes blue) and the other was brown. Both of those eyes stared up into mine, and she immediately got comfortable in my arms and went to sleep. Mom still has a picture somewhere of the both of us sound asleep that Easter on the couch.
Jamoka remained a constant in our lives for the next several years – the move to Cruces, the divorce, the move to the new house, high school, friends coming over, etc. All through it she was the most loyal and loving dog I have ever had in my life. She traveled all over the country with us when she could, and in her old age loved to sit on Alyssa’s lap in the car enjoying the air conditioning or heater. She would often sleep in our bedroom, and when she couldn’t hop up on my bed anymore would sleep on the floor on a special blanket.
When she was about 11, we inherited another dog – a Bichon Frisee/Maltese mix by the name of Danny Boy. He had belonged to our former neighbor, and his daughter could not take care of the dog after his death. He attached himself to Alyssa, but from that moment on he and Jamoka were inseparable. I like to think he kept her young.
Then in December 2009, Jamoka gave us all quite a scare. She had contracted diabetes by this point, which meant she got daily insulin injections and was on a certain diet. This also meant 4am bathroom breaks outside, rain or shine. That night, she wasn’t breathing or eating very well, and we all feared the worst. The next morning, she was fine. I often think she knew Mom needed one more Christmas with her.
February 2010. One morning, Jamoka woke up and was disoriented. She kept running into things and wasn’t eating or drinking. As I took her outside to try and coax her to go to the restroom, Mom was on the phone with the vet weighing options. I remember hearing her breath hitch and the sobs start. I knew what that meant.
My poor old girl was standing in the yard she called her home, unsure of what was going on. Tears in my eyes, I knelt down and hugged her, crying into her soft fur. For a moment, she came back to herself and licked my face, telling me it would be all right. I cried, and cried, and cried.
That night, I had a tutoring session with my best friend. I was sitting on the floor of our friend’s dorm room, trying to make idle chatter. I knew the deed had already been done, and that Boo-Boo (yeah, I came up with that nickname) was gone. I casually mentioned to Tamera that Mom could at least get more sleep now without having to let Jamoka outside at 4am.
And then it hit me.
I bawled in her and my friend’s arms for an hour – reliving every memory that I could of her. I cried until I was so exhausted I started hiccupping.
Danny Boy was confused and solemn for the next few days. He knew Jamoka was gone, and knew we were all sad. In time, we all healed, and Danny reveled in being the top dog of the house.
April 2013. I had moved out by this point and was dating Mysti. It was a month before my first summer in Yellowstone, and Danny Boy had been feeling sick. My phone rang, and I reached over to answer it, my voice rough from sleep. It was Gabs on the other end. Danny Boy had passed on sometime in the night, curled up on his favorite pillow near the fireplace. Mom was taking his body to the vet’s to have it cremated, and she was wondering if I would come over later just to make sure everyone was ok. I agreed and hung up.
“Stupid dog,” I bawled, hanging on to Mysti with everything I had. “Stupid, stupid dog, always eating stuff he wasn’t supposed to and stuff!”
Wishbone and Luna were a blessing in disguise, and probably kept my mom from sinking into a deeper depression. I adore them, and I know that though I’m not one of their people, they still consider me family.
Which then leads me to Barrington. Six years to the day Jamoka died, Beth told me we could finally go adopt a dog who would become my emotional support animal. I was ecstatic, and eagerly awaited the end of my shift so we could go to the shelter a few blocks from our house.
Three other families had seen him that day. and no one wanted him. There was another family after us who wanted to see him, but we had seen his picture on the adoption website and wanted to meet him.
He came in the door, wary of the two of use for a moment. And then, he picked up his ball (which we still have; it’s his favorite) and dropped it into my lap. We knew in that instant he was ours.
And now, we have Vanya. She’s a sweet puppy who just needs to work on being socialized, but has already proven to be a sweet and lovable pup.
It’s probably a cliche to say dog’s are man’s best friend, but, given the experiences I’ve had in my life regarding these wonderful creatures, I couldn’t agree more.