Megan was 13 when we had our first conversations about getting a dog. She was especially insistent that we not change the subject. The normal questions surfaced: Who will feed it? What will we do when we go on vacation? What if it chews the furniture? Who will take it to the vet when it gets sick? Who will train it? How are we going to pay for it?
We didn’t rush out and get a dog. We read, we talked to experts, we counseled. We answered the questions. I would take the lead on training and the kids would all pitch in for her care. We were determined not leave the care and training of our new dog to mom who was still training young Patrick to eat with just one on his hands.
Megan was serious enough about getting the dog, that she put some of her own hard earned money towards the purchase. After considerable research, we chose a Hungarian Vizsla. We chose the Vizsla because it was a bigger dog, but not a pony; it shed, but not by the bale; could live indoors with the family, but not nest on the couch. We also felt it had the same potential for obedience as the kids. The Vizsla’s reputation is to be a loyal and affectionate. Vizslas are also fine falconry dogs, whose reputation goes back a thousand years to early falconers in Hungary.
In addition to the shared vision of our family companion, I had visions of Addie pointing pheasants while my falcon waited on overhead. That was never realized, because early in her training, Addie ran into the street and was struck by a car. She sustained two broken back legs and was quite scraped up. This was the first time we had to decide whether to put Addie to sleep. The option for surgery was expensive. It would mean no Christmas that year. We counseled as a family, and unanimously decided that saving Addie was more important than Christmas. It was the right choice—no one grieves over missed toys.
She recovered well enough to run, but not without effort. I still took her with me to fly the falcon; she loved to chase birds around the field, as well as the drive out there. Perhaps because of our additionally investment—emotionally as well as financially—Addie endeared herself to our family and others patient enough to give in to her affection.
Last week we made another right choice. After 13 years of blessing our family, she was ready to move on. After a couple of days of final goodbyes, Addie and I made one last trip to the vet and I came home alone and with a mind full of memories.
It is difficult to understand attachment to a dog unless you’ve been attached to one yourself. And we have. Like all suspended relationships, the pain of loss is in direct measure to the amount of time and emotion invested. Because we were all fully vested, Addie’s passing is challenging, and is only supplemented by the triggers of memories that return a smile.
The day before departure, Megan, now with children of her own, came down from Salt Lake to play with Addie one last time. Addie, though tired, gave what energy she had one more time. Naturally there were tears as last good-byes were offered. As she was leaving, Megan came up to me with moist eyes and I gave her a hug. “Thanks for getting me a dog,” was all she could whisper. I couldn’t whisper anything.
What flashed back in my mind at that moment, was not just the last 13 years that we had Addie as a pet, but the 13 years our family including Addie, grew up together. It took me back to that Sunday afternoon discussion where we answered the questions about who would feed it and what about the carpet.
I reflected on how we did figure out how to train her, and who would feed her. I was also reminded that our carpet wasn’t stain free. In fact it was ruined. Ruined the first time when Addie carried herself in after the car accident. And ruined many times after that. As a pup, she chewed up a favorite falconry glove and many of our toys.
But carpet and gloves can be replaced. Over and over. What can’t be replaced or taken away is the relationship we have all had with our dog. We learned from a being who loved unconditionally. She never seemed to have a bad day or be in a sour mood. Never measured her affection based on your performance. She provided opportunities to learn sensitivity, to learn to love. This is evident in how we feel at her passing. She wasn’t just a dog, something to throw food at when it barks at the neighbor’s dog.
Yes, cliché as it sounds, Addie was a member of our family. And I wouldn’t trade the love and relationship my kids developed with Addie over the years for all the new carpet possible. Kids don’t have lasting relationships with carpet.
Our experience with Addie is a tribute to JaLee who was willing to sacrifice a spot-free house to let a dog and some kids grow up together. (Not to mention a falcon or two which helped Shayne grow up.) Some measure a woman’s worth by how clean her floor is. And while for the past 13 years, JaLee may have forfeited first place in the clean floor division, she gets first place in the relationship division, including her relationship with Addie. And in the end, we take our relationships into the next life and leave our carpets here.
So thank you JaLee for letting us get a dog. And thank you Megan for asking.