Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ode to a Dog

Tomorrow marks one year since we had to say goodbye to our precious dog, Wicket.  In some ways, it seems like yesterday and in others, it seems like a lifetime ago.  The pain has faded somewhat, but it still strikes me almost on a weekly basis.  I look out our kitchen window at the elephant on his grave and am reminded anew of how much I miss him. 

I have been trying to write this post since he died and I have not been able to.  I figure I owe him a tribute on the first anniversary of his death.

First, to explain the elephant marker on his grave.  The only toy he came to us with was an elephant and we were told it was a favorite of his.  We replaced the elephant over the years, but they always remained his favorite.  We had two in the house when he died and we buried him with one and we kept one that Madeline has in her menagerie of stuffed animals on her bed.  We thought an elephant marking his final resting spot was appropriate and that he would have loved it.

We found Wicket through a Shih Tzu rescue organization in Chicago.  We actually had gone to their event to see another dog, but came to find out that that dog already had someone just waiting to take him home.  So we started looking around at the other dogs and found one scratching at his cage and making all sorts of noise with an underbite.  I loved him from the minute I saw him.  He was already seven years old and had endured some trauma in his life once he left the people who had had him since he was a puppy.  He was named Kokomo at that time and we knew we would have to change that.  We asked to spend time with him and he instantly sat in my lap and never left it for close to ten years. 

We had issues in the beginning as he chased our cats everywhere and had a hard time warming up to Brian.  But we got through it and he ended up being a wonderful dog.  We had many adventures together, including welcoming a new little being into our home when we had Madeline.  Wicket could be ornery with a lot of people, but he was rarely that way with me.  I seriously worried about how he would handle Madeline, but he loved her and showered her with kisses, just like he did to everyone.  For an older dog, he was extremely patient with Madeline and she loved him. 

His last year was hard.  He had been taking medicine for a heart problem for many years, but I think the years of hardship finally caught up to him.  He always loved his walks, but in that last year, he stopped his walks all together.  He just slept on the couch most days, instead of playing and running around the house.  Having a toddler made it hard to give him the attention he needed and deserved and I still beat myself up about that.  I just have to hope that he knows how much I loved him.  He was my first baby.  A few days before we put him down, he was barely able to breathe and I think he was mostly gone already.  He looked up at me, gave me one last lick and then basically left us.  He wasn't himself after that and I knew we had to let him go.  I knew that he had held on as long as he did for us and now we needed to let him go and stop his suffering.  We had someone come to the house so he was surrounded by all his things and was at peace as he had always hated the vet.  It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do.

I could fill pages with stories about Wicket.  He was a loving, cranky, licky, stubborn, joyous and playful dog.  I have so many wonderful memories of him and with him.  For those that have never had a dog, it is hard to explain what they mean to you as a family member.  Dogs just want to be with you, simply put.  They don't judge you, they don't expect you to act a certain way or look a certain way.  They just love you.  That was what Wicket was for me.  And it is hard to replace that once it is gone.  I will miss him for a very long time and I certainly won't forget him.  Until I see you again, Wicket...