I had a bad night since we last talked. One of those bad nights where you really just need to vent to someone. Not because you want someone to tell you you’re right or wrong, but just someone to listen.
It was late. My pop was asleep; my big brother working. So I couldn’t call either of them. It reminded me of how much I miss my go-to shoulder to cry on. Someone who was, and still is, very dear to my heart.
My first born died a little more than two years ago. But I still think about him every day of my life. Some days, like the one mentioned above, it feels like he just passed yesterday. That pain that seems to tear right through your chest when you lose someone close feels fresh on those days.
Roy would be 16 years old now. For the majority of those 16 years, it was just him and me. And let me tell you, that boy knew everything about me. He knew my deepest secrets all the way down to the most embarrassing ones. Yes, the ones that you think of from time to time and wince while thinking, “Ugh! Did I really do that? What was wrong with me?!” I told Roy everything. He was the best friend I ever had. He always just listened for as long as it took me to get whatever it was off of my chest. And he never judged me. Well at least, if he did he never let on.
It’s probably important to let you know that Roy was my dog. It feels so weird even referring to him as so. He was so much more to me. I moved to four new states with Roy. We were all each other had in those moves. Long before my wife and I got together. Long before my human kids came along. It was just me and Roy exploring life.
Man, did that dog ever live a life, too! He lived way more in his 14 years than many people do in 90. He went through two spring break seasons in Panama City Beach, Florida. He lived through a cold, snowy winter in the beautiful mountains of Blacksburg, Virginia. He blindly jumped off of a second-story balcony to try to impress a friend’s female border collie (it nearly gave my dog-sitting friend a heart attack). He even busted out of jail! Yep, he scaled the confining fences of the Richmond County Animal Control shelter and found his way home. He showed up on our doorstep four miles away from “the joint” still wearing his lockup collar. He was inmate 920.
There are dozens of other stories that Roy has given me to tell, but one huge reason that he will forever hold a place in my heart: He was my best friend. This is why I wonder sometimes why some people treat dogs so horribly.
This was brought to my attention a few weeks ago while having Sunday brunch at some friends’ house. Over light snacks and Bloody Marys we see their neighbor’s dog sitting in the sunlight, staring into the storm door window. We can see the “please let me in” look on his face from the next yard. It was sad, but not horrible, as this was one of the very scarce beautiful Sundays we’ve had this year. The horrible part is that our friends told us that the same thing goes on when the days are cold. Or rainy. Or snowy. I don’t think I need to remind you of the horrible winter we’ve had.
Now imagine yourself stuck out in that wet, cold weather. Or worse yet, your kids. Most people would never allow that to happen. Dogs get just as cold as we do. I realize that some people don’t have the room for a dog inside on a permanent basis. But at least bring the poor thing in when it’s excessively cold or hot. Make sure the dog has shade and shelter so it can take refuge from the sun or rain. And go outside and show the dog a little attention now and then. Throw the ball for 30 minutes. It won’t kill ya.
A lot of people already have this common sense. But there are still a lot of people who just put their dog in the yard and forget about them. Or worse yet, put them on a chain. My question to you is this: Why do you even have a dog? You obviously don’t care about the dog. So why bother bringing it home in the first place? I just don’t understand the appeal of having a living being in your life that is so capable of loyalty, trust and love and completely ignoring it.
I never wanted another dog after my best friend/first-born son passed away. There was nothing that could ever take his place. Now that our family has two dogs that we absolutely adore, there is still nothing that could ever take Roy’s place. In my heart and in many other people’s hearts. He made a lot of friends along the way, in several different states. I’m proud to say that tears were shed all over the southeast on that miserable day two Februarys ago.
But as we do in life, we move on. And I treat my youngest two children (Griswold and Snotz… yes, Snotz) to the same love that they give: unconditional.
Will you do the same? Will you invite your furry child along on this adventure we call life? Or will you make them stare into the storm door window wondering if you’ll let them inside today?