Today was the first day I was home without you. I arrived from a long day of flying to a house full of family, and spent the evening laughing, playing games and eating everything in sight.
The house cleared, and there was a silence I hadn’t felt in a very long time. I walked to the front room table, where a drawer stored your collar and leash. My lip trembled. I picked up you collar carefully, scared to jingle the tags because I knew for the first time, you wouldn’t come running. A lump formed in my throat.
I never remember you as anything less than a dream. For years I had begged for a puppy, and every birthday wish had you in it. Around Christmastime when I was 7, Dad got home late one night. He asked us to sit on the couch (typical form for Mitchell surprise giving), and held out a small cardboard box.
There you were. Deep brown eyes peered up at me from a ball of fluff that was completely stiff, besides a small wavering in the neck. You were absolutely timid and irrevocably shy, to the point where I looked up and asked, “Is she real?” I was convinced you were a stuffed toy. I reached and touched your soft fur.
“What do you want to name her?” my Dad asked as my gaze lingered. Every bit of my tiny heart was bursting, I was looking at my dream after all. Finally my eyes wandered to the Christmas tree. The beautiful angel that adorned the top had always been my favorite. She was clothed in deep red and gold, with beautiful sashes of ribbon cascading around her. She was perfect, and so was the tiny new addition to our family.
“Angel,” I said thoughtfully. I continued, “Angel Tree Mitchell is her full name.” There’s the 7 year old in me coming out. But even at such a young age, who could have predicted how perfect that name would turn out to be.
You were rambunctious and full of love for every person you encountered. Through the years your gentle nature was never lost, and before I knew it, I forgot what life was like without you in it. I spent my life yearning for a dream that I was getting to live in.
You were always the best part of coming home. Without a doubt, the sound of keys would draw you straight to the door to welcome all that entered. When I was happy, you were wagging your tail and yipping with delight. When I was sad, you would find a place beside me in silent company. You were a constant comfort, and loved us with every piece of you.
It was around the age of 10 that we started trying to accept we would lose you. We loved you extra hard, and I begged for my dream to stay. 2 years, 3 years and beyond, you were a little old lady, but never lost your spirit.
We said you lived on love, and I truly believe that’s why you stayed so long. When it became too hard for you to jump, we bought you stairs. When you stopped using your voice, we started listening better. When you would no longer eat, we exhausted every option until we found something you liked.
In our last moments together you were more gentle than ever. Although you were losing your sight, you would find us with the tip of your nose to let us know you were there. We each spent time cherishing you, and received an occasional kiss on the nose or two. You may have been old and tired, but were the exact same pup that came at Christmas years ago.
On your final day you knew it was time. My Dad, the same man that first found a place in his heart for you, was the man who always held first place in yours. That day you waited for him to come home. There was no better way to leave us than by his side, your favorite place in the world. It was a comfort to know that not a bit of you was lost, even in those final breaths.
It’s hard for me now to sit in the silence that was always accompanied by you. I know as time passes my memories of you will grow more distant and become less vivid, so I’m letting myself feel them as deeply as I can stand. Thank you for loving us so well that your departure still remains unbearable. You lived as my dream, and you will forever live on in my dreams. I still can’t believe you were real.
Did you have a childhood pet that made it’s place in your family, and further in your heart? Please share in the comments below how these little additions changed your life!
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