Many years ago I worked with a woman who had two dogs. I can't tell you much about the dogs. I don't remember names, breeds or much of anything other than she loved them. Loved them so much that when one dog died she had to take time off from work.
I remember being surprised by this. I had grown up with pets who were part of the family. We had dogs, cats, hamsters, mice and birds. Not all at the same time, but they were a constant part of my childhood. I was familiar with loving my pets but not to the extent that this woman did.
I was a 27 year-old newlywed who lived in a modest apartment. She was about four foot nothing in her stockings and couldn't have weighed more than a 100 pounds. A tiny single mother whose child had gone off to college she had no one but her dogs. Or so I think.
So many years have passed it is hard to remember and it is possible that some of the grains of time have become lodged in my eye and consequently have blurred the details.
What I know for certain, what I can say without hesitation is that I thought of her as being old and was quite surprised at how upset she became when her dog died. I understood that it was hard, but I didn't quite get how it required time away from work.
But age and life experience have helped to bridge the gap and I understand things a little bit better now than I did then. Because the truth is that I still miss my old friend.
This past weekend we took the new puppy to see the vet. The same vet that the big lug used to see. As I stood there I remembered when he was just a puppy, far bigger than the new guy, but just as curious. I stood there and remembered how he used to prance around the house and how we'd play together.
And then I remembered how it was at the end. The struggle to walk, the incontinence and other indignities of old age. How hard it was to make the decision to let him go and how the light went out in his eyes in the same room that I was standing in.
As screwy as it may sound, I felt a twang of guilt. I felt sad that he was gone and that I wasn't able to do more for him. He was the best of friends and a trusted confidant who was taken away far too early. And I realize that every time I see a Golden Retriever I look for him.
He's not coming back. There won't be another like him. There will be other dogs and the bond between the new one and I is growing daily. I suppose that I just felt like I needed to put it out there that he hasn't been replaced. His memory lives on with me.