Well, today was hard!
About 12 years ago she was just taking a nap in the middle of the street. I opened my door because streets aren’t typically good places for dogs to take naps. I was reluctant, but she just jumped right in like we were already best friends.
I drove her to the Humane Society, only to find out that the branch was closing down, any dogs not adopted would have to be put to sleep. I wasn’t planning on adopting a dog, but the universe had a different plan. My dream dog was a border collie, this idea was put into my head when I was very young by my dad who had always claimed that border collies were the smartest dogs in the whole world.
He wasn’t wrong, Pepper, a nine-month-old border collie, had just accepted my unintentional application for partnership. It wasn’t always roses and buttholes (I put buttholes in there because Pepper’s preferences for smell are a little different than mine). Pepper used to suffer from horrible separation anxiety, and within in a week of moving in together, she had broken the welds off her metal kennel, ripped the blinds off every window, pulled the cable wire through the wall, and ultimately cost nearly $1,000 in damages to an apartment that we would move out of in less than a month. Goodbye security deposit.
In the new house, she was there to help with every step of the remodel. It was so helpful when she ran up the stairs as I was carrying an old (water filled) toilet down the stairs…I guess redoing the downstairs floors was the right move anyway. Thanks Pep! It was interesting when she fell asleep against the freshly painted wall, most people don’t know that border collies can come in avocado green.
As we got more comfortable with our new place and our new routine, we developed a bond that goes beyond any that I could explain! Every morning I wake up to a cold nose just barely touching my cheek. She is always there at the window to greet me when I come home from school. We rush up to change clothes and our daily adventures would finally commence. Hitting the trails was the best. So many birds and squirrels to chase, other dogs to yell at, and smells (NOT ROSES) to roll in!
We’ve covered thousands and thousands of miles, no weather can stop us, except maybe thunderstorms. Thunderstorms always turn Pepper right back into that anxious nine-month-old border collie, although she always does her best to be strong.
But today was hard.
I don’t think that the person who said that ‘dogs are man’s best friend’ understood just how unique the relationship between humans and dogs actually is. To call Pepper my best friend is such a gross understatement of our relationship. Having a dog is a commitment that people don’t usually engage in with other people. I’ve never lived with a friend rent free, I’ve never cleaned poop from a friend’s fur, and I’ve never had a friend sit beneath my feet as I read books deep into the night, or wrote papers, or graded exams. I’ve never known a person (friend or not) who doesn’t judge. Dogs are so much more than friends. So much more than family. The relationship between a dog and their human is unlike anything else in the world, I don’t think there is word for it, I don’t think there should be. ‘Best friend’ isn’t even close, but maybe it’s as close as the limits of our language will allow.
Today was hard!
I’ve been studying philosophy for my entire adult life, I love it, but there isn’t much in the discourse on how to emote properly, and I don’t have much practice, I’m just not very good at it. I can usually get away with a stupid joke or a misdirection, but it doesn’t seem like jokes and misdirections work when I am the one at the center of the pain?
Today I held Pepper as she took her last breath. The cancerous tumor that we removed four days ago clearly wasn’t enough as it had already spread into her lungs. I feel like I lost the most important part of myself today, and I don’t know what to do?
As I was driving home from the vet sitting next to an empty collar a song lyric popped into my head, I have been playing that song on repeat ever since. As I look at the “noser” smears on the window near the driveway, the random Pepper furs (everywhere), the full food and water dishes, and the empty place on the floor beneath my feet as I write these words, a seemingly meaningless song has gained significance.
You’re so nice and you’re so smart, you’re such a good friend I have to break your heart. I’ll tell you that I love you and I’ll tear your world apart, just pretend I didn’t tear your world apart.1
I know she had to go, my heart is broken, my world is torn apart. Despite the hurt, I wouldn’t change a thing, and I promise to do my best to just pretend that my world isn’t torn apart.
Today was hard.
But tomorrow I have to wake up without a cold wet nose bopping me on the cheek, and I don’t know how to do that?