During high school (and after) I used to party a lot. One time, that parting led to me bringing home a dog.
When I was about 3-years-old, my parents informed me they were getting me a puppy.
The only thing I cared about was naming it Lassie. Male or female, Chihuahua or Great Dane, bald or fluffy: I was naming it Lassie.
(From what I’m told, Lassie was my favorite show, my favorite dog, my favorite living thing in the entire world. My grandfather often used to tease me and say, “Lassie is a boy!” to which I would get deeply offended and respond, “Lassie is a doah!” — pronounced ‘doe-uh’; for some reason that is how my toddler mouth spat out the word ‘girl’.)
My parents brought home an adorable brown and cream-colored German Shepherd/Lab mix. She was hyper and clumsy. I wrapped her up in my 101 Dalmatians sleeping bag and cuddled her on the living room floor. We played and wrestled; she pounced and nipped and I hugged and giggled.
And then my parents said, “This is Lady.”
Lady?! She wasn’t a “Lassie dog” so they couldn’t name her Lassie. (I think my parents need to go back to elementary school and learn the difference between couldn’t and wouldn’t.) They were breed-discriminating.
I made a big fuss and eventually got over it. Kind of. I’m still a bit bitter, but I loved Lady nonetheless. We began the tumultuous process of growing up together.
And then, slowly, Lady started spending more time in “her room” (the laundry room), and less time in the house with us. She was my dog, but I was still too young to really contribute to taking care of her. I couldn’t be tasked with remembering to give her food or water; I couldn’t walk her; I couldn’t make sure she had no accidents or clean them up if she did. And I wasn’t the one who vacuumed up her shedding hair, mopped her tracked-in dirt, or cut her dagger-like nails.
And then my dad bought a big pen for outside, put a doghouse in it, and she spent most of her days out there. And still, I wasn’t the one who cleaned up her pile of waste in the corner. Her baths became less frequent.
And then she spent all of her days in the pen, and all of her nights in her room. I always went to the door to pet her or give her treats — to assure her she was still loved — but we drifted apart as I made friends and discovered the phone and internet and cable.
And then, when I was 16, Lady died.
If you haven’t figured it out, Lady was not my love at first sight story. Although I did love her dearly, and looking back I wish either I had the sense to take better care of her, or my parents had the sense to teach me. (I think it’s safe to say we can share the blame.)
After my one and only dog’s death, I used every aspect of the devastation to my advantage. I had moved to my mother’s about 2 years earlier, so my involvement was simply a phone call from my dad telling me the news (knowing him, it was probably weeks later — he didn’t tell me about my grandfather’s funeral until I had already missed it). But it did hit me pretty hard, and I played the part well. I had already convinced myself I was going to get another dog, I just had to convince my parents.