There is something that happens when an animal gets into your heart. The experience brings you back down to your most basic, instinctual level. It makes you get over yourself. It reminds you that pure, simple joy is found in the eyes of this furry creature who sees you as you are and doesn't need to know much more beyond you being willing to share your space, your time, and maybe your food :).
When I first met Babygirl up close and personal, she was in her prime—solid, muscular, territorial to protect her 'people' (she is part chow), alert, and ready to play. She was staying with my best friend for several months, and I had come over to her apartment to visit. She growled at me ferociously, unsure of my intentions toward her pack member and ready to let me know she wasn't taking any shit from anybody.
But as soon as my best friend put her hand on me, gathered my scent onto her fingers, and let Baby know that I was okay—that I was part of the pack—that was it. Then, it was all tail wagging and ear scratches. The next time I came to visit, I heard that familiar growl from behind the door, but as soon as I called her name ("Baby, it's me!"), the growls turned to excitement and I could feel her willing the door to open so we could get on about the business of the love-fest.
Fast forward to several months later, I had gone through a pretty difficult breakup and was overcome with sadness. I didn't want to be in my apartment, so I fled to my bff's place to stay with her and Babygirl. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, Baby stayed by my side while I was there. She seemed to take on my sadness and had a hard time eating. My pain became her burden, my concerns furrowing her little doggie brow. I tried to get her to eat, but I realized that just as my best friend was having a hard time force-feeding me bagels, the dog didn't want to be consoled either. She was content, instead, with watching junk tv with me on the couch and napping in between my crying jags. I told her all my problems and she listened. I asked her questions about why things hadn't worked out, and while she didn't have the words to speak, I felt that she got it somehow. We bonded so strongly during that time, and I knew that she had fully drawn me into her 'pack.' I was one of her people, and that was something that would never change.
On Sunday of this week, many of Baby's friends gathered at a beautiful garden in the city to pay our last respects to this cherished soul. She had reached the ripe old age of 15 and her body had been slowly failing her for months. It was time to send her off with the celebration she deserved. We spread out on blankets under a big tree and the diva herself (complete with feather boa and coat) let us all come and pet her and feed her treats and tell her how much we love her. When I arrived, she was resting peacefully, head all the way down to the ground. I gave her an ear scratch and told her it was me, but then I realized that she couldn't hear me and probably didn't know who it was. So I reached down and put my fingers in front of her nose and said again, "Baby, it's me," and she immediately lifted her head and leaned into my hand, nuzzling it. From that first day years before, she had never forgotten me. I was in her pack, after all.
When I left the park later that afternoon, I went to say goodbye to her. I kissed her head and whispered to her, "Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for letting me be yours." She didn't say anything then, either, but I knew she still got it somehow.
This morning, that beautiful girl crossed over the rainbow bridge with her family around her and with so much love sending her into the light. I am heartbroken and in tears as I write this, but here is what I know for sure and what gives me comfort:
Babygirl was a beautiful gift to this family and to my life. She never judged, never held a grudge, never got angry with us, never wanted anything more than to love and be loved. Once you were in, you were IN. She even tolerated us singing to her, dancing with her, calling her silly nicknames (dupa!), dressing her in ridiculous outfits, and generally cutting up and being fools. In fact, her favorite place was in the middle of a room full of her people, laughing and carrying on. Oh, how she was loved!! She was the focus of tons of pictures and she is part of most memories I have with this family. She loved on all of us when we were sad, happy, or somewhere in between. She saw her mama through some tough transitions. She brought calm into chaotic circumstances. And she was the best friend and most loyal companion you'd ever want.
I know that she is free now from any pain and any limitation, and I hope that there are unlimited doggie treats and head scratches where she is—because she deserves them all.
Thank you, sweet lady, for taking me into your life. You're in my heart for good and I am so honored to have known and loved you.