Some time in the past several years, I acquired a morbid habit, an extremely, twisted morbid habit – writing out eulogies in my head. If I was on a long car trip alone (we’ll pretend that I don’t do this anymore and I’ll use past tense), I would just start thinking of what I would say at someone’s funeral – a best friend, a family member, my sister. Usually, I would start crying, tell myself I was a complete moron and turn on the radio.
I could try to blame this on growing up with a chronically ill sibling, but I think I developed a preoccupation with death even before she got sick. Once when my family was on vacation, visiting my grandma who lived in a rickety old trailer in the middle of the countryside, I wrote my own will. How does someone under ten know what a will is? I do not know – granted, I think it was maybe two sentences long – to the tune of “I love everyone and give my toys to my brother and sister”. I vaguely remember being very nervous about the rickety trailer catching fire or being blown to pieces by a tornado. Looking back, I’m not sure how, if one of those scenarios had played out, anyone would have been able to find my will… Nevertheless, I did write a will at a very young age (I’m pretty sure my mom discovered it laying around somewhere and I was very embarrassed) and it’s probably the case that my predisposition to worry was exacerbated by growing up with a sick sister who almost died at least a kazillion times…but my warped mind is not the point of today’s blog…..it’s that I find myself needing to write a eulogy for someone who I never even considered would be in need of one – my dog.
He’s still alive…but I don’t know that he has much time left. We’re at the oh-so-wonderful-when-do-we-put-him-to-sleep stage of dog ownership. He lives with my mom and she doesn’t know what to do. He’s almost eighteen years old and, well, he’s a partially blind, completely deaf, arthritic, incontinent old man, but all I see when I look at him is a little puppy who became my sister’s best friend…at times, he may have been her only friend.
So, here’s my eulogy for my dog:
Sammy wasn’t that different from other dogs in any overt, obvious way – just the one way that mattered – he was my dog. He was my sidekick and adventure companion …admittedly, the adventures sometimes were too strenuous and he had to be picked up for the journey home, but he never refused going out into the great unknown. He was my secret keeper, quite an excellent one as all dogs tend to be. He was my “shoulder” or furry friend to cry on, as I went through all wonderful stages of adolescence. He was my personal entertainer – he was especially good at sitting, laying, and turning in circles.
He was my friend.
And yet he was also so much more than all of this. He joined our family the same year that my sister was diagnosed with Lupus, nearly 18 years ago. He was there through it all – from the beginning to the unfortunate end – that dog supported our family in the tiniest and yet most important ways. He was an ever-happy influence on our fluctuating states of being. Through the highs and the lows, he kept that little nub of a tail wagging. He never once acted out or let on if he felt neglected…I think somehow he knew what was going on, that we were hurting, and he continued to love us in spite of it all. Even when at times, we may have taken it out on him, may have yelled unnecessarily, may have ignored him intentionally…
I think he also knew who needed him…for while he was technically speaking “my” dog. Eventually, there was no question that he really was my sister’s. He was there for her through the heartache of this horrible disease – from the beginning to the end. When she was stuck at home because she was in pain or just feeling lethargic, he was on the couch next to her. When she went to bed, he was sleeping next to her. That dog was always next to her. He meant the world to her and as crazy as it sounds, I think he was the closest thing she had to a soul mate. Because, in many ways, he saw her pain and disappointment, he saw her struggles and supported her through it, more than any of us. No one spent more time with my sister than that little dog. And for that, we will always love and be eternally grateful for him.
So, while Sammy wasn’t all that different in any obvious way, he was extraordinarily different in all of these subtle ways. And he was able to bring joy to a family during the hardest eighteen years of their lives.
I think Sammy still knows where he’s needed. His soul mate is gone and it’s time for him to join her…wherever she is, whatever she’s doing…he belongs next to her. Always has. Always will.