… and I still miss him as if it were yesterday. Each morning I wake up, and this photo greets me from the wall across from my bed. A friend got me Walking With Zeke, by Chris Clarke (of Creek Running North fame). Clarke writes
And he was sometimes taken for granted, an occupational hazard of being so steadfast, so trustworthy. While I never for a moment in more than 15 years forgot how much I loved my dog, I count myself as lucky that I came to realize, late in his life, just how profoundly he had affected me.
I had lunch with three women today, all dog owners and lovers, who spoke with such care about the dogs in their lives. Then one stopped, leaned toward me, and said, “Tell me about your dog. I know you lost him recently. I want to know about him.” I struggled not to let tears well.
This is the plain truth: Dakota irritated me beyond reason when he begged for food, when he pulled trash out of the garbage cans, when he ate too much and then threw up. But I wouldn’t trade any of those things for the joys he brought me. For the unconditional love, the friendship, the listening. I can’t tell you how many times he would lay his head on me when I cried, getting close to me, almost as if he knew I needed to be loved. Or how I would wake up with sore hips because he laid so close to me in bed that I couldn’t move — and how I didn’t mind those sore hips because it meant I was loved. Or how he made me laugh when we played tug-of-war with his favorite toys, or when he burrowed through the snow, popping up like a “whack-the-mole” 20 feet later, with snow on his nose.
I still love my boy. He taught me so much about myself and about love, just when I needed it.
It’s been a rough year, Dakota. I’ve missed loving on you. I’ve missed talking to you. I don’t cry every time I talk about you anymore. Instead, I smile, and remember, and love you all the more.