Just a twenty-something living the dream, trying to check off the bucket list, one entry at a time
So, this weekend, I’m spending some time at home. Of course I love taking the weekend off and relocating from my cramped dorm to my spacious house with free laundry, a fully-stocked fridge, consistent wifi and a clean bathroom, and this is also my preparation weekend for my impending trip to the Czech Republic.
However, there’s another reason behind my visit home. I love seeing my family. I love taking my parents to my favorite restaurants in State College when they come to pick me up. I love catching them up on my life and classes and friends. I love sharing my excitement about THON and seeing them get excited with me.
But, there’s one family member that I don’t get to see nearly as often as I like. There’s one family member that I don’t get to chat with over the phone or FaceTime since my parents’ don’t have iPhones. If you follow me on any social media platform, you know that she and I are completely adorable and can totally rock a selfie. Yes, I am talking about about my girl, my booger, my favorite puppy on the planet, my adorable yellow lab-mix, Lady.
I say puppy, but it’s getting harder to call her that. Because, in reality, Lady became part of our family the summer after I finished third grade. Like all adopted shelter dogs, we weren’t too sure of Lady’s age. The volunteers at the Humane Society told us she was about seven months old, and by their best guess, she was born somewhere between late September and early November (we decided her birthday would be October 31, Halloween).
See, one of the reasons I’m excited to see Lady this weekend is because (and god, this is hard to even type), well, I’m not sure how many more visits like this I’m going to get.
Because Lady is turning 12 this year. And according to our vet, a lot of labs get to 12, but not many make it to 13.
I hate that. I hate that sentence, and I hate that idea. It’s still hard for me to accept that my rowdy, excitable, energetic, virtually indestructible baby girl is getting older. I can’t even imagine the day when she won’t be around.
Honestly, (and god, this is even harder to type) there’s a good chance Lady should even be here right now.
The spring of my senior year, I came home after a prom dress fitting (yes, I remember every detail). Usually, the second I open the door, Lady comes bounding down the stairs to greet who ever just came in. But this day she didn’t. When we found her downstairs, she was shaking uncontrollably. A harried trip and several hours at the emergency pet hospital later, we learned that Lady had a mass in her stomach. The shaking had been caused by internal bleeding. We were also told that type of mass usually meant cancer.
Luckily, she stabilized that night and we opted to have Lady undergo surgery to remove the mass. During the course of the surgery, they also discovered a mass on her pancreas. After a biopsy, they found out it was benign. And we all breathed a sigh of relief. Because Lady is a fighter, and she wasn’t ready to leave us yet.
But, the summer after my freshman year in college, Lady relapsed again. This time, we decided not to put Lady through surgery. At her age it would be too hard on her body and unfair of us to put her through all that pain. At the time, the doctor told us our best option was to make her comfortable, manager her pain and just ride it out.
But Lady surprised us again. After a few touch and go days and a whole host of pain medication and a brief stint with the infamous dog cone collar, Lady was back to her old self. After a lot of crying and accepting that dogs can’t live forever and one day, I’d be without my best friend, she threw that back in our faces. Because my dog is a fighter and as stubborn as hell (come to think of it, maybe that’s why she fits in so well in our family).
But, it’s hard to deny that she’s getting older. She’s slowing down. And every now and then, I get a call from my mom because “Lady is having a bad day today.” I understand what that means. I can read between the lines. And my biggest fear is that my best friend is going to leave, and I won’t be there to say goodbye. I got one of those calls last weekend. And even though its selfish, I prayed that my booger would hang in there for one more week until I could come home to see her. I would never want my dog to be in pain, but I just wanted to see her. Just in case.
That’s why I’m so glad I’m home this weekend. I’m so glad I was able to hear her running towards me when I opened the door. That’s why I immediately dropped to the floor for another of our famous Lady and Mary selfies. I don’t know how many more of those I’m going to get, so I’m going to treasure each and every one. Maybe I take so many pictures with her because I want to make sure I have some thing to remind me of her. Sometimes, I forget that she’s getting older. That’s why getting those calls are always so jarring.
It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to that little yellow face that has greeted me every day for the last 11 years when I came home from school. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to the same dog that I slept next to on a ratty old blanket when we brought her home.
It’s going to be hard to give up the nights where Lady and I fall asleep in front of the fire in our den as college football plays in the background. It’s going to be hard to give up those moments where I sneak into the kitchen for a late night snack and she’s right behind me looking for the leftovers. It’s going to be hard to give up my constant companion, especially in the summer when my parents are at work and it’s just she and I. It’s going to be hard to give up the one person who will never tell my secrets, love me unconditionally and never judge me when I cry. It’s going to be hard to give up all the thousands of little moments that we’ve shared and all the memories.
One day, it’s going to be time for her to leave us. One day, she’s going to decide that she’s too tired or that she’s had enough, and all I can hope for is that she’s not in any pain and that I’ll be there with her. Because, I’ve learned to accept that there comes a point where trying every trick in the book to make your dog live forever isn’t for her, but for you. And my family decided we won’t put Lady through any pain. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Lady isn’t perfect. Actually, she’s far from it (don’t even get me started on the number of leashes she’s chewed through). She can’t stand other dogs and she still pulls the leash when she walks. Sometimes, she still chews through our garbage and does other dog things.
But if there is one thing Lady is a master at, it’s love. She loves our family unconditionally, without reserve and without judgement. She loves us just because we’re her people. And we love her too. We didn’t choose Lady from the shelter; she chose us. We are her people, but she is a part of our family. I’m so grateful and blessed that she decided we were the right place to make her home.