When I was just a 7-year-old kid, I carried a puppy home in a cardboard box. He had tiny, golden paws and a head so big that you’d have thought he’d constantly topple over from the added weight. He didn’t bark or cry or try to jump out. He just kind of hunkered down and shook, like the idea of being in a box on a person’s lap in a car was the most terrifying experience of his life. That fear never changed.
For the next 15 years, he was my best friend, my biggest headache and my Sweets. He was Porky. And two days ago, I had to say goodbye.
We knew it was coming. Porky had been sick for a while, with bad hips, a missing eye and the quickly approaching permanency of being deaf and blind. But we thought we could get him through one more summer. Three more months of table scraps, lazy days spent sitting underneath bushes or trees and warm nights munching on marshmallows by the fire ring. But like much of the luck that plagues my family, circumstances changed and our timetable was abruptly brought to an end.
Like any dog, I think Porky understood that he had two jobs in his life on the corner. Love the humans and protect the humans. He waited for the bus every morning with me while I was going to school, and he was waiting in front of the garage every afternoon when I got home. He would eat lunch with me in the summers, let me use him for a pillow while I read a good book in the front yard and became the perfect shoulder to cry on when I felt like the world was too much to handle.
My dad buried him in the backyard, under a shade tree and facing the corner. It felt important, somehow, that he still be able to watch over us. My mom cleaned up and put away his bowls. My parents hauled his doghouse to the burn pile in the back, ready for the next fire. There’s no more questions of “Did you tie the dog up?” when I enter the house at night. No more banging on plates out the window to alert the dog that there are scraps in his bowl. And every time a train goes by, the eerie stillness of a whistle without the howl of my annoyed canine echoes across the corner.
I haven’t been able to make myself walk back to the corner where he’s buried yet. I probably won’t for a long while. I don’t have to see a mound of dirt to feel his loss. It’s too quiet. I’d give anything to see him trot around the corner of the house one last time, or to hear him sneeze followed by a dull thud where he’d smacked his nose into the floor.
I’d give anything to have Saturday morning back, where I wouldn’t just walk past him because I was running a little late for work.
But life doesn’t work that way. What it did do, however, was give me 15 years with the best friend I’ll ever have. It gave me the opportunity to understand that even in the end, when it feels like I’ve lost a limb, I wouldn’t trade a single moment of any of it.
So save a seat under the shade tree for me, Sweets. I’ll see you again someday.