As Aimee & I finished up our 10-article series on heartbreak, I suffered my own loss. One of my best friends, my dog Paco, was ready to leave this earthy life. This beautiful dog changed my life in immeasurable ways and taught me about the redemptive power of love. I wrote the following letter to him before I put him to sleep:
You were not perfect. You failed the obedience exam. You hated all dogs (and most humans). You preferred expensive rugs to wee pads.
But, 10 years ago, when I opened the tiny cage at the shelter marked "Beware," my life changed forever. Apparently, staff had never seen you so docile and sweet to a human before. Quicker than you can say “reference check,” they dropped you on my doorstep. After 3 months in a cage, their "unadoptable" dog had found his forever home.
I thought I saved your life. But, the truth is...you saved mine.
You arrived six months before an unexpected and devastating divorce. During my darkest days, you showed me light. Literally. Sunrise--every day, including (much to my chagrin) the weekends--you were up. You nudged me into the world, wanting to run, eat and play.
You loved to run the park during off-leash hours, so we did! I walked one way and you ran the opposite, forever testing boundaries and fueling my anxiety. But, no matter how far the distance between us, you always checked back to make sure I was there. You learned I would never stray.
When I started dating again, you were the fiercest protector. At the mere whiff of an unfit suitor, you pulled out your bag of tricks—growling and nipping. If someone was particularly abhorrent, you'd even throw up. I'd tell my Mom and best friend Melvin (the only other people you liked) of my bad dates, and they would uniformly agree with your assessment.
Given the years nay-saying, I stood up and noticed when you cuddled up in Dr. Bill's arms and fell asleep. How could you know that this handsome bachelor (and recent Brooklyn transplant) was my soulmate? #67 on my Excel spreadsheet of dates, I had finally found my heart’s home. Thanks to you—my perfectly imperfect friend-- I didn't miss the signs.
For more than a year, I have struggled as a brain tumor ravaged your body. When you stopped seeing, I guided you. When you grew weak, I carried you. And, when you let strangers kiss you, I smiled at the joy of watching you receive love without fear for the first time. But, I cried, too, knowing that your disease had robbed you of yourself.
My head and heart have been at odds--I selfishly want to keep you by my side, but know that letting you go is the kindest thing I can do.
I promise to do you justice. To love animals as noble creature. To see the beauty in flaws. And to spend my dying days living up to the love for which you have paved the way.
Onwards and upwards, my dearest Paco. There's a huge park waiting for you to run free.
All my love,