This morning when I signed onto Facebook I was greeted with the news that my niece's cat, Dottie, had passed away. Her comment thread spoke of how much of a wreck she was; how sad she felt.
Later this afternoon, my brother called me to let me know that their dog of 16 years, Katie, was being put down today. He was on his way home where the vet was waiting with the family. He was shaken and in emotional pain. Just as my niece, today was a day they were both losing dear friends.
People who have never experienced the love of an animal, or their loss seem to have difficulties comprehending how we feel as though a family member has passed. I say unless you have gone through it, you cannot judge. It's like people who have never had children that tell those that do how to raise them, or take care of them. They are clueless.
In April of 1993, a white 5 month old schnoodle came into our lives. I remember so vividly the day we brought him home. My husband had already seen him at the pet shop and as a surprise, along with my girls then 3 and 5 went to bring him home. We were completely clueless what to do with this little white ball of fur, so soft and precious. Along the way home we decided that his name would be Sammy. I have no idea how we arrived at that name but it fit perfectly.
And speaking of fitting perfectly, Sammy was the best addition to our family imaginable. He trained quickly and was smart as a whip. He was loving, affectionate and obedient. Everyone in our neighborhood knew Sammy as he had a sneaky habit of letting himself out the front door. He'd run around and then there he would be, sitting at the front door. He knew where home was.
Sammy was a joy to have when the girls were growing up. He was playful, sweet and a great watchdog. He may have been small but he would rip the arm off of anyone who would hurt one of us. He was such a pleasure that friends would be more than happy to watch him when we would go on vacation. He was that good.
Since I work from home a good deal of time, I was with Sammy more than anyone. He always sat in my office with me, was always waiting at the door when I came home. My daily welcome of "Hey Sammsers" or "Hey Muttley" were always words of love from me. I wasn't the most physically affectionate with him, but I loved him deeply and truly. I referred to him as my son.
On the morning of June 30, 2008 when Sammy was 15 years old, we awoke to him bleeding on the carpet of our family room. He had had a rough weekend yet we just never wanted to believe the end was near. 15 years, he was our family member, our companion, our best little buddy. Luckily we were all home and at 8 that morning we rushed him to the vet. We were told that it would be best to put him down. It was a shock we were not prepared for and the Dr. suggested that we each take a private few moments with him before she did what she had to do.
The idea that I would go home without our Sammy was incomprehensible. We were all inconsolable; a sadness that we had not yet felt in our lives. None of us had experienced the death of a family member at that time and it was an awful, new feeling. One that I really never thought would be quite that deep.
All of us came home with the emptiest feeling. Sammy was to be cremated and when I picked up his remains, which took me weeks to get up the courage, I cried like a baby in the vet's office again. His tin sits in a place of prominence in our home. When I look at it, I am reminded of our "little boy" and what he added to our family.
Shortly after he passed, my husband bought me a plaque that reads "Dogs leave pawprints on our hearts". There is no truer statement. Whether it be a dog, cat or another animal they become a part of us, a part of our families. They have big hearts and are our unconditional best friends. There are few of those in the world. Sometimes they are all we have.
RIP to Dottie, Katie, Sammy and all our furry friends we have lost.
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