Last May 26th, the late Growly would have turned 15 human years old. Over the past week or so, for some reason it’s been harder to live with knowing that she is no longer with me than it has been over the past six months. She was an old girl who lived a good life and it was just her time to go. She was the dog of my childhood. A surprise at the end of a school day to a little girl who had begged her parents for months for a dog. A girl who at the time never would have realized the real implications of owning a dog go beyond picking up her poop and walking her regularly. For thirteen years, Growly served her family faithfully as she taught them the true meaning of unconditional love. To me, Growly taught that words do not have to be exchanged in order to understand emotions. That not saying anything doesn’t mean there’s nothing to say. I mean obviously, she was a dog. It’s not like she speaks English and I bark. I don’t know what it is about dogs that lets them have this sense of understanding. They may not ever know why you’re feeling a certain way. But they know how you feel. And they know to feel the same way simply because that’s how you’re feeling.
The day she passed away was the saddest experience of my life. It’s not an exaggeration as I hate being clichè. Admittedly, I never knew anyone close to me who died. She was the first death I experienced grief for in its fullest form. Though her signs of aging became much more explicit in her last months, there was no way I could have prepared for the suffering that entailed from knowing I no longer had my best friend waiting for me when I returned home.
Besides the love and support from my family and friends, there is one source that also made me feel better: Rufus. Part Rottweiler, part German Shepherd, part Huskie, and probably much more, Rufus entered our lives in 2006 just as I was about to graduate from middle school. Growly threw a fit, but she quickly learned to accept that she was no longer going to be the only dog. When she passed away, Rufus immediately felt her absence as he solemnly watched me and my brother, Mitchell, dig her grave in our backyard. He was always fond of lying in his bed, but at that time there was a definite change in his energy as he would only get up to eat and go outside. As I went back to school, Mitchell made a point to take him out more often as precaution to the phenomenon of a dog who experiences the death of another close companion is likely to pass away too regardless of age and lifestyle. Fortunately, that didn’t happen. But having Rufus around not just as a source of relief of still having another dog, but rather as something who understood emotions the same way Growly was what eventually helped me cope with her death. He was not something did not need to ask me how I’m doing, or remind me that she lived a good life like many of my friends and family thankfully did for my own psychological well-beng. But he was something who let me hug him and cry into his fur and just understood how I was feeling. Though I must admit he has a much closer bond with Mitchell, there are few things left that I could be more thankful that Rufus is still in my life.
I do not mean to liken my two dogs in any way. In fact, they could not be any more different. I feel terrible every time I think about the fact that we made them share the same living space in our downstairs. Honestly, Growly was a straight up b*tch. She was friendly, do not misunderstand, but as far as her interests went in other dogs and even people who were outside of the family, they did not go far. She essentially gave no f*cks for things that did not catch her attention. Sometimes I question why her and I had such a strong bond and if it reflects anything negative on my personhood. Hmm. However, she did love her treats and walks and rides in the car and the rare occasion of being able to jump on the furniture.
Rufus, on the other hand, is enthusiastic. And funny. He is large, but he doesn’t realize how large he is as he runs into things and gets stuck in small places. He likes people and having their attention and essentially likes to socialize. If he were a human, he’d be a true gentleman. There are not many things that Rufus would want to complain about as he is accepting of whatever is given to him. My other brother, Mijo, noted that he is more of a ‘family dog’ in that he lies down wherever we are situated, whereas Growly took advantage of any alone time she could get in her bed.
Using the love that I have for my two dogs, I think it be appropriate to end this post with an urge to own one. Moreover, not that I have anything against purchasing a puppy from the store (besides the whole puppy mill ordeal which are sometimes funded by pet stores), I do want to strongly encourage adopting. Growly was a house broken 3-year-old beagle from the Ocean City Humane Society and would not have been able to live the life she had with my family had she not been adopted. Rufus, though, did not go through the traditional adoption process. Mitchell got him in a WaWa parking lot off of a drunk girl wailing about this dog she had at like 3 o’clock in the morning. My brother did not trust this girl, soo… he took the dog from her. Long story short, I woke up the next morning with a new, huge dog.
There has been a few posts popping up on my Facebook newsfeed about adopting dogs and dogs put in shelters and abandoned ones on the side of roads. I don’t cry over many things, but certain heart strings get pulled when I learn of an dog who has ever experienced any of these things. I cry over dying dogs over dying humans. Don’t even get me started on what John Grogan’s “Marley and Me” did to my psyche. I always tell people that once I’m established (aka can support myself AND another living entity financially), the first thing I’m going to do is adopt a dog from a shelter that either a) is the oldest one there or b) has been there the longest or even c) get two dogs that fulfill both of these requirements distinctly.
“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.” – Mark Twain