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Rated: E · Essay · Emotional · #2264637
The joys and pains of having a dog
I have always loved dogs. My family had them when I was young, and I've had many myself over the years. Even so, it wasn't until my last two pets that I really began to see how special it is to have a pet in the family... and how hard it is to lose one.

When I was a child, our dogs were fun companions, diversions in days full of school, chores, and other family activities. Later, as a young adult, the full impact of owning a pet (yes, we had a few cats in the mix) never quite hit me. I was in the military and quite often deployed. My wife and sons carried most of the responsibilities of having them. It wasn't until we got Zack, a feisty 15-pound Miniature Pinscher, that I experienced the full impact of having a pet... but not just a pet, he became a member of the family.

He was MY dog. I fed him, trained him, and picked up after him. He bonded very tightly to me. The feeling was mutual. I took him places with me. He loved riding in the truck. When I got home from work, he would jump up in my lap and placed his front legs around my neck, like he was giving me a hug. He was very loyal, very protective. He was not afraid to challenge anyone new coming into the house, but once he got to know you, he would shower you with love. He was indeed a charmer.

Zack came to us in 2004. In 2013, he was diagnosed with diabetes. We did everything necessary to ensure he lived as healthy as possible, to have a good life, including giving him daily insulin shots. By 2017, however, the disease and his age caught up with him. The most loving thing we could do was to let him go. We were there with him at the end, and it nearly broke us.

Many wonder how people become so attached to their dogs. I saw a Facebook post once that addressed this and I wish I could remember it verbatim, but it was spot on in its statements: Dogs love unconditionally. They are always happy to see you, it doesn't matter if you have been gone five hours or five minutes. Dogs never hold a grudge. Dogs can tell when you are hurting, whether that is physically or emotionally, and they are quick to offer comfort. They are protective, willing to lay down their lives if necessary. They are eager to learn, and always happy to please you.

As mentioned, Zack's passing crushed us. My wife retired in 2012 and he had been her constant companion for five years before his death. She took it very hard, saying she never wanted to feel that pain again. After a few months I was ready to get another dog. I missed having one, but I did not push it on her. I waited and hoped.

One might ask, "If the pain is so great when a pet passes, why get another one, why try again?" Because the love, the joy they bring into your life is worth it. After about nine months my wife had a dream. In this dream Zack came to her in the company of many other dogs. He seemed very happy and told her it was ok to get another dog. I know, crazy, right? It opened her heart, however, and we found another spunky little Miniature Pinscher, naming her Becca. She is very like, and yet so different, from Zack. And yes, she too has stolen our hearts.

Will Rogers once said, "If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die, I want to go where they went." It would be difficult to disagree with him...

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