My sweet, sassy, pain-in-the-butt Beagle/Jack Russell is entering his 16th (or 17th?) year of life. Over the recent months we have seen his health decline, his boundless puppy-like energy evaporate and his sight and hearing disappear. Our family has had to acknowledge that our time with coming to an end.
Seeing his decline I knew I had to prepare my children to eventually say good-bye to him. After this sad, difficult conversation my son asked me when his birthday was. This made me recall the day we got him as a 6-week old puppy from a Mall pet store. This was long before me and my husband were married and had any children. We didn’t go in the store with any intention of getting a pet.
He pee’ed his way into our hearts
At that time we still lived in a rental apartment and worked crazy hours. But from the moment we held the adorable brown and white beagle puppy our decision was made. He snuggled into my purse as if to say take me home. As we loaded him on to my lap for the quick car ride, me and my husband were both overjoyed with our new family addition. And Dukie being the one of a kind dog he is, not only left a mark on our heart but also all over my pants as he pee’ed on my lap during the car ride home. Little did I know this was the start of the crazy places that dog would relieve himself (on the batting of our dishwasher, our neighbors carpet, and my personal favorite, in my mother-in-laws purse.)
As I told my kids this story I remembered the pet store paperwork said Dukie wa born sometime in Febuary. This gave me an idea. Instead of waiting for the final vet visit, we should celebrate all the time we have had with our crazy, stubborn, hysterically funny beagle. We should have a birthday party for him and be thankful we have been blessed to have him as long as we have. Celebrate his life and all he has given us, instead of focusing on his death. I mean don’t all of us want that when it is our time? To be remembered in life not missed in death.
Happy Birthday Dukie!
So I asked my children what they thought and they loved the idea. The plan was to create a birthday sign made by the kids. Together we would make Dukie some homemade dog treats I use to make him as a puppy, (which I will share the reicepe of this wendsday. ) and spend some extra special time with our four legged friends. Each of us sharing special memories and something we have learned from Dukie.
In writing this it occurs to me I might have need this even more then my children. He was my first dog when I moved away from where I grew up. No matter how scared I was. How unsure of myself, my new environment, and my blossoming relationship with my then boyfriend. My dog was always there for me.
When my fiancé took a job that left me alone most of the time, Dukie was my constant companion. I would take him for long walks to the park behind our apartment, bake him special treats and find comfort petting his soft fur. Don’t get me wrong he was not an easy dog.
As we came to find out Beagles as notoriously stubborn and the Jack Russell side is incredibly high energy. The mix of the two made for a dog that was near impossible to train and extremely mischief making. Even as a puppy he was very destructive, and would somehow defeat any barrier we put up to prevent his roaming (and peeing) all over the house.
I shamfully admit I have not been the best dog owner in recent years. Dukie’s stubbornness and high maintenance qualities made him to needy for me to handle while working full-time and caring for children. My long walks with him became less frequent and my patience with him became much shorter. Out of frustration and the tiredness of a mom I often yelled at him and did not give him the attention I should have.
The many lessons of Dukie
Around when our kids were born we also adopted the dog of a family member. She had returned it to the pound and it was not doing well there. The sweet eyed black lab became extremely fearful and had to be muzzled most of the time at the shelter. The dog was never aggressive but was in such as state of fear and heartbreak not one could get near him. Knowing he it was never going to be adopted we brought him home to live with us.
We worried how this dog would react to Dukie but our worries where for nothing. Being the almost human like dog that he is, Dukie was just his stubborn playful loving self. He let the new dog know where he fell in the pack order. What would be tolerated and what would not. This seemed to give the new dog a sense of a security, belonging and comfort. From that point forward whenever the two were separated the new dog cried incessantly until he returned. Like the frequent times Dukie would find a way to open the front door and go gallivanting around the neighborhood. (Still don’t know how he kept opening the door. I swear the dog had hidden thumbs.)
With two dogs, two kids and working full-time. I was at my witts end with too much to do. My children became Duke’s new care giver. They brushed him and pet him. Played with him and gave him the attention I could not. In turn he protected them, took turned sleeping in their rooms and loved them in a way only a dog could do.
They took over his morning feeding time, played in forts with him and delighted in giving him and the other dog treats. My children become bonded to him in such a sweet and wonderful way. He taught them what it ment to be responsabile for someone else and what it means to be loved unconditionally.
A man and his dog
That is not all. Dukie has had an effect on all of us . But his relationship with my husband has always been the strongest. It is a mix of strange, sweet, silly and touching. My husband who can be quite closed off and at even times cold is a big mush with Dukie. They to have a special bond. I mean I have never heard him gush like he does for this dog.
He makes up silly names for him, carries him like a baby and sings him songs. I know it sounds bizarre…well it kind of is but Dukie brings out the softer side of my husband. More then I have ever seen him with me or my children. Dukie is his special companion maybe more then any of us. I know that my non-emotional husband who did not cry when the beloved father he loved passed away, will shed tears when this dog goes.
It is amazing that one animal, one little spirt with its own uniqueness and personality can effect us so deeply. As humans we feel we are so evolved. We are so smart, so emotionally advanced but we are nothing compared to dogs. They know us, get in our hearts, change us for the better. Protect us and teach us more about life then we could ever understand without them. This weekend we gave a dog a birthday party but we know it will never compare to all that he has given us.