Joel started a bedtime routine with Peanut many years ago. He’d place her on her bed, pat her lovingly, tell her she was a good girl (whether or not she had been that day), reminded her of how much we love her, and to have sweet dreams. It made her perky little ears and forehead wrinkles go slack. Soon after she’d drift off to sleep. Signaling the official end of the day, she seemed genuinely soothed and relaxed by the whole process.
I adopted the routine when Joel had to be out of town. She always had one or both of us telling her every evening that she was a good girl, that she did a good job for the day, and that we loved her. At some point I added, “Thank you for being here,” because I wanted her to know, in whatever way an animal can know, how much she mattered to us and that we appreciated her being part of our family.
As luck would have it, the very day we decided that we needed a little Peanut in our lives, there was a little Peanut out there who needed us, too. Paperwork from the sellers reflected that she hadn’t had an exam in a long time. As such, they told us that we could return her and get our money back if a checkup revealed any issues. A checkup revealed a bladder infection, an infection in both ears, and cloudy eyes that would require daily drops if we wanted to try to save her vision long-term. Returning her was not an option.
As her third set of parents, we promised her that this was the last stop and that we’d take care of her forever. From that day forward, our family life evolved into discovering different ways that we could all enjoy spending time together. Bringing her into the fold gave me a sense of completeness. I’m sure it’s similar for any couple that adds to their family; it’s all about caring for, loving on, and spending time with one another. Even as a kid I always longed to be a dog mom and knew someday I’d have a furry little bundle of my own when the time was right. Our little family meant everything to me.
Peanut gave me a Dog Mom shirt for Mother’s Day
She was my morning coffee buddy and office mate. She watched basketball with Joel. She kept my secrets. She passed messages between Joel and I when we were avoiding speaking directly to each other. She knew when we needed comic relief. She was the reason we discovered how much we love walking through forest preserves. She could also be fickle and adorably naughty which we found completely endearing. We were suckers in love with that little dog and she knew it.
Peanut was always up for whatever, whenever. Naps, car rides, walks – she was in.
We made accommodations for her when she started having some physical challenges due to neurological issues and age. Through trial and error, we found ways to help her that worked well. We made more accommodations as the challenges continued through the years. Despite those challenges, we made life work and we all hung in there, enjoying the gift of time together. It was our mission as her mom and dad to make sure that not only was she as comfortable as could be but that she knew she still mattered to us immeasurably as a member of this family.
Then, we sensed that we were in a time-frame of last chances to appreciate being together, before those chances were gone. It’s bittersweet to have that time and yet hear the clock tick louder and louder. I knew that Peanut was not exempt from the circle of life, but still…
It’s impossible to articulate the agony of making the decision to free her from a body that had done its very best through the years but was failing faster and faster. I would have done anything not to let her go but she deserved to be free. We owed her that.
Even though she had a full, long life and was loved beyond measure, I was not remotely prepared for the intensity of the grief that began the moment we parted and the most unbearable ache that surrounded my heart. That little dog did more for me and meant more to me than she could ever know.
I actually spent more time with Peanut in those twelve-and-a-half years than I had with Joel. More of a homebody who has worked from home, we were hardly ever apart. From life’s happiest joys to the most painful sorrows and every little thing in between, she had always been there for me. I treasure so many wonderful memories and am grateful for the time we spent together, but the disbelief that our story is over and the degree to which her loss still crushes me, varies by the day.
Coincidentally, Peanut and Joel shared a birthday. For the first time in 13 years he won’t have his birthday buddy sharing a celebratory dinner and desert. She would have been 15-years-old today.
Peanut, you were a good girl, you did a good job, and we will always love you. Thank you for being here.