every year, for more than half of my life, my parents would see two recurring desires listed on my yearly letter to santa: 1. a puppy and 2. snow.
in fact, even after the kids at school told me santa wasn't real, i still wrote letters wishing for a puppy so that my parents would see it and feel moved to make my one true christmas wish come true.
but chasing the dream of owning a family dog wasn't limited to christmas time. desperate measures were taken. once, i cut out a picture of a dog and taped it to a large, framed family portrait in our hallway to show my parents what we were missing.
mom was always hesitatnt, though she loves and grew up with dogs & horses. dad was different- he was interested but had never had a dog before. when he was growing up, his mother refused request after request my dad and sisters made for a puppy of their own. her answer was this: "we can't have a dog, because he will know i don't like it, and when you kids are at school, he will kill me." my dad realized there was no arguing with this logic, and was happy enough with a turtle for a pet.
finally, one weekend during 7th grade, my mom and sister went away on a girl scout camping trip. dad, john byron and i went up to the town center to check out "dog days in the park." shelter representatives and vendors lined the area, and there were puppies everywhere. i can still remember seeing a tiny, fuzzy, speckled puppy at one shelter's booth with a bright red balloon tied to his collar.
we approached the lady holding his leash, and she let us walk him around the park. the next thing we knew, we were driving home with him for a "trial weekend." imagine my little sisters delight and mom's shock when they came home that sunday afternoon.
ten years later, freckles has become an irreplaceable member of our family. he is by no means a perfect dog. i like to say he's more of a free spirit than 'well trained.' he ran out the front door and back gate more times than anyone can remember. he's petrified of fireworks and hates the chinese delivery guy, trash-men, and UPS trucks. time after time my parents threatened to send him back to "the slammer" (the shelter) because of his relentless escapes.
but he loves us, and especially adores my dad. my brother and parents love taking him on long walks in their new neighborhood, and he even has his own stocking on the mantle for christmas. he is happiest when the whole family is together, particularly eating dinner and sending scraps his way. and we love him.
and now it's time for him to leave us, all of a sudden. we could tell he was sick over thanksgiving, but we never thought cancer, especially not an advanced form. i wish i could be with my family, especially this morning, and say goodbye to him, and hug my mom, sister, and dad while they deal with the hole in their hearts that i'm feeling now. i'm just grateful i got to pet him & hold his paw one last time before we flew back to texas.
ross mentioned tonight at dinner that he's scared for us to get a dog because of the loss and sadness we will inevitably feel someday. but we both agreed thats just the chance you take with life and love, and that's it's always better than never loving at all. especially with dogs, because all they do is love you back.