Fourteen and a half years ago, just a few days before my husband and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary, we decided that the perfect 1st anniversary gift would be… puppies. And not just one puppy, but two. Because nothing says starry-eyed young love like the idea that we could handle not one, but two dogs.
We were totally clueless. Crazy in love, sure. But also absolutely clueless.
Nonetheless, we drove five hours to get our new family members — our first “babies” — Jobe and Maeby (if you watched “Arrested Development,” you’ll know).
It took about 12 hours to realize how clueless we had been. Two puppies? In a third floor walk-up in Chicago? We weren’t just clueless and naive; we were out of our minds to do that.
And we were. They peed all over our condo. They barked loudly and ran wildly around the apartment at 5 a.m. They literally ate our couches and walls.
But eventually the madness of our decision faded into long walks and cuddles on the couch and lots of fetch with tennis balls. Over the years, they were there for every major (and minor) event in our marriage and our lives. They weren’t just Jobe and Maeby; they were “The Dogs.” An inseparable duo and part of the family.
As all dogs are.
The impact that they have had on our family and our lives (not to mention our bank account) is too much to detail. And really, the stories are only meaningful to us. Suffice to say, it’s some Marley and Me shit. Anyone who has ever had a dog will get it.
Last March, Jobe died. He had been sick for quite some time, and while he’d always been a rather high maintenance dog, his old age took it to the next level. He needed twice-daily insulin injections. He had a special diet and several medications. He had a liver problem and a hormonal imbalance. He had dementia and had lost some vision and hearing. He wore diapers for a while, until we realized that washing several diapers a day was more trouble than just cleaning up the messes. Though it was so clearly “his time” when he passed, we all felt his death deeply. In fact, we never stopped calling them “the dogs” even though it was now just one. Singular. Somehow even in death, they were still inseparable.
A couple months later, Maeby — our “miracle dog” who’d made a full and against-the-odds recovery from cancer 8 years ago — developed heart failure. She muscled through, ever the spunky soul that she was, for a several months. But nearly six months to the day after her brother’s death, her heart suddenly gave out.
Say what you will, but I will forever believe that she died of a broken heart.
And now, here we are, with no dogs. Only our broken hearts.
I’m grateful for the time we’ve had with them, but right now I’m mostly just sad. Really fucking sad.
It shouldn’t be so shocking that she – that they – died. After all, they were 14 years old. She had heart failure, for god’s sake. But some days I just do not believe that they are gone. I wonder if the day will come when my first thought in the morning won’t be that I need to let the dogs out. I wonder when I won’t come home and, Where are the dogs? Did one of them pee in the house? Will I ever get used to picking up dropped food from the floor instead of waiting for one of them to come gobble it up?
Sometimes I am truly shocked by the pain and grief that I feel. Like actually shocked. Still, all these weeks later. And although it feels embarrassing and somewhat indulgent to admit that – after all, they were “just dogs” – there is also a humble pride in my grief. For it truly is an honor to love something so completely, simply, and unconditionally.
Folks often ask how my kids are dealing with it, and like each of us, they are dealing with it in their own way. One of my kids sobbed for hours after Jobe died, wailing and holding him close as he took his last breath. He wept all over again when Maeby died. He mourned fully and deeply all at once.
My other son has let his grief seep out over the months, shedding just a few tears when it all happened. But he’ll cry on a random Tuesday night, missing them. He’ll draw pictures of them as he processes his grief and the confusing questions about what’s next.
Not a week goes by when he doesn’t talk about them. “I miss Jobe and Maeby,” he’ll say out of the blue.
“Me too, buddy. Me too.”
And I do. Every.Single.Day.
People always talk about how dogs are better humans than humans, but really they are just BETTER. Period.
They are enthusiastic with their affection. They hold no grudges.
They relish the simple joys in life — a long walk, a good chew toy, an afternoon nap with their friend.
They forgive endlessly, and love unconditionally.
I’m sure there’s a scientific reason that dogs have so many characteristics we love about them, but I choose to believe it’s because they have perfected the art of what it means to “live a good life.”
And they are just trying to show us how to do the same.