She was sitting in our dining room basking in the afternoon sun, trying to soak in some warmth on a cold January day. The way the light hit her, I was momentarily stunned by the amount of white hair she had. She looked so poised and regal, but for a moment, my heart sank at the thought of her age.
I feel like I sometimes forget just how old she actually is, and I block out that she’s most likely in the final years of life.
To her credit, she thankfully still moves great, hears and sees well, and can even go for a (short) jog every once in a while. She eats well, goes to the bathroom regularly and sometimes even sleeps through the night. All in all, besides some white hair and the occasional limp…she’s actually in great shape for 11 and a half.
Now before this goes too far, I want you to know that I realize she’s a dog, and that the descriptive words being used could easily be attributed to a human. I get that for some this may sound crazy to talk about a dog in this way. However to us, she is so much more than just a dog, she is a part of our family and in some ways our “firstborn.”
We had adopted Lua when she was five months old, soon after we bought a house with a yard. We both adored dogs and had wanted to expand our family for a while. So we opened our doors and our hearts to this beautiful Dane-mix puppy, and our first fur-baby had officially arrived.
You may not realize this, but dogs can be like teachers. When two people raise a dog together, you end up actually learning so much about each other in the process. You figure who is the disciplinarian and who is more soft on the rules. You navigate logistics issues when traveling or even when going out, and how you will react when your pet is sick or hurt. There are responsibilities to delve out like feedings, walks, baths, cleaning of all sorts, and the most basic act of just giving love and care.
Lua was wild and crazy for the first few years. She literally had no idea how big she was at over 100 lbs. and it showed in the way she moved. She very rarely listened to us in public (or at home), and often bolted after any other animal outside. She failed the doggy training class we took and just never had any interest in basic commands. She doesn’t like being home alone for more than a few hours, and she will go to the bathroom in the house if she’s mad at us. She has cost us thousands of dollars in vet bills for things like stitches, X-rays and endless medications.
Those first few years, she tested our limits on a daily basis, and I questioned many times if we made the right choice. However, like any parent, we loved her through the hard times and figured it out as we went.
Because there is so much more that she has given us over the years that I will be forever thankful for. She has taught us how to love and care for something bigger than the two of us. She drove us to compromise more, and how to talk things through when we didn’t agree. She showed us the importance of working together, and most importantly she has given us the magic of unconditional love and loyalty.
She also allowed us to practice being responsible adults with her, and in many ways, she was our guinea pig. We had no idea how to parent, and she took on the brunt of our mistakes.
When we did have kids, she remained steadfast in our life, but just more in the background. She saw the chaos and allowed us to adjust. The kids nicknamed her “Luey,” and over the years, they have fell in love with her too. Her now quiet gentle demeanor is so welcomed in our world of constant rambunctious loudness.
On the days I allow myself to acknowledge her age, I can feel my heart start to break. How do you let go of something so important to you?
We know our time is limited with her, and it is because of this, I do my best to take in the moments we have with her today, and make sure she knows how much she is loved.
After she is gone, I hope that I can find the joy in the memories she gave me as my “first” born. I want to always remember that her life served a purpose with ours, and that she was absolutely more than just a dog…she was one of the best parts of our story together and the puppy that made us the parents we are today.