When I was very young, I asked my mom if we could get a dog.
“You have eleven brothers and sisters,” she said. “Why do you need a pet?”
I had no choice but to accept her logic. So, growing up dog-less, I never experienced the deep and indelible bonds created between humans and pets.
As a stupid, little ten-year-old, I used to make fun (behind their backs, of course) of my parents’ friends who had no children but did have a French Poodle named Banjo. They used to refer to the dog as their only child and even talked to Banjo like it was human. I found that rather bizarre.
But, I eventually married into a dog-loving family and gradually saw the errors of my way.
By the time we adopted Bailey, a hair-shedding, Frisbee-catching, lab-mix who could go from zero-to-sixty at the sound of the front door opening, I knew I was in trouble. She had me at “Woof.” This past weekend, our goofy giver of joy, who never judged me for yelling at the TV on football Sunday, succumbed to cancer.
So today, Bailey did not accompany my daughter to the morning school bus. She wasn’t there to stare down the pesky chipmunk who uses our lawn as a rent-free acorn storage unit. And, worst of all, selfishly-speaking, Bailey is not snoring at my feet as I work at my computer.
I am decades removed from that stupid, little kid, but to Banjo and to all the dogs and dog owners whom I’ve secretly disparaged throughout my misguided youth, I apologize, even to the ones who get dressed up on holidays.
I’m not looking for sympathy, just posthumous absolution. Because I get it now. A dog truly becomes part of the family, and today my family knows there is a big part missing. Rest in Peace, Bay…