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Our Best Friends

There was no way I was going to write about this.

That’s what I’ve been telling myself for the last two months. But the little voice inside my head tells me otherwise, like it always does when an idea takes hold and just gets louder, until I give in so I can quiet it down and breathe again.

And since I live in a town where enough people will understand the source of my sadness, all the more reason to let the voice take over and the writing have its cathartic way with me.

I know that many of you will understand my sorrow because I see you downtown, your companions right there beside you at the cafe table, hoping you’ll share that buttery croissant.

I see you in the arboretum, your buddies at the end of their leashes, straining to dash ahead and take in all those good smells.

Davis even has special parks designated for our furry friends while they romp and get to be social.

And who hasn’t gotten a little teary-eyed while watching that Iams commercial with Duke, that beautiful Great Dane allowing a little girl to paint his nails hot pink. Or the Chevy commercial that isn’t at all about the car’s engine, or its wallet-friendly mileage and sleek design, but instead focuses on that most loyal of companions, your dog, “a best friend for life’s journey.”

Well, the last couple months have felt like one long heart-wrenching commercial, the kind I try not to watch because it leaves me in tears, successfully tugging at my heart strings as it is intended to do.

We had to say goodbye to our Golden Retriever Tuck, our most loyal companion, who had been part of our lives for nearly 14 years. I met him when he was still small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, as he slept serenely while the rest of the litter clambered all over him and he didn’t seem to mind. I knew him when he was compact enough to fall asleep in my lap, despite my husband’s admonitions that I was spoiling him. I knew him when he leaped into our bed and managed to fit all 75 furry pounds of himself between my husband Mark and me, and by the way, neither one of us seemed to mind.

Best buddies, Tuck & Denozo

Best buddies, Tuck & Denozo

Tuck loved all of us but he adored Mark. If it wasn’t the frenzied barking and tail wagging any time Mark walked into the room, the lovelorn look Tuck reserved just for him gave it away. It was Mark who had to teach Tuck how to swim so he wouldn’t drown if he fell into the pool, and Mark who bathed him until Tuck was too old to climb into the tub himself and had to be carried. And it was Mark who had to make the decision I could not bring myself to make, when the tail wagging became too much of an effort, and the barking was completely silenced, and Tuck’s best friend Denozo, the neighborhood cat could bowl him over in his excitement to see him.

Tuck & favorite rock

Tuck & favorite rock

And so I still go to pieces when I slice a baguette and find myself saving the tail end even though no furry face appears around the corner of the kitchen island. No matter where in the house Tuck may have been, he always knew when I was slicing bread. Or carrots. Or tomatoes. Okay, so he was interested in anything anyone did in the kitchen.

And it’s not just the kitchen that Tuck still haunts. I avoided our garden as long as I could because I didn’t want to come across the rocks he loved to carry around, a strange habit he developed when one of us (no one remembers or is owning up to it), tossed a rock and he ran to retrieve it. From that moment he had no interest in fetching sticks or balls. Our daughter Emma always brought him a new rock for his collection, no matter where in the world we traveled.

Maybe saying goodbye to him was even worse because the kids were overseas, and we had to let them know about Tuck over Skype. I was hoping Emma hadn’t already picked out a rock to bring back.

Even vacuuming made me cry when I realized I didn’t need to empty the container half-way through my task. There just wasn’t enough fur to bother.

Our Tucker

Our Tucker

And I swore, right then and there, no more dogs, ever. My heart couldn’t handle breaking like this again.

At the Cloud Forest Cafe

At the Cloud Forest Cafe

As I wander through the market on Saturday mornings, or sit at any of our local coffee houses, there they are, our furry friends, part of our daily routines. Last Saturday at Cloud Forest Cafe I met Vanessa, whose miniature Dachshund, Maddie-Lynn, sat happily in her lap, waiting for a bite of the sandwich she knew would be offered momentarily. Vanessa said that it’s nice to have a companion and that she even takes her into the dressing room when she goes clothes shopping. On a park bench at the Farmer’s Market, a husband and wife sat enjoying the morning sun with Joey, a tiny bundle of fur and large eyes to which they referred as their “portable dog,” without which they don’t travel so Joey has been everywhere, from Mexico to the San Juan Islands.

“Portable Dog”

I’d been avoiding dogs until that morning and even then, I asked my questions and kept my distance behind the safety of my camera lens. Today though, in the most unlikely of places, there was no more hiding. There isn’t much room for escape in a very small elevator, specifically the one in Del Norte Hall on the CSUS campus, on the way up to the third floor and the Human Resources office. This elevator has to be the slowest one on campus. It’s also got to be the last place I’d expect to see anything but humans. But I couldn’t ignore the woman being led by a seeing-eye dog, both making their way toward the elevator door just as I was about to step in. So even though the urge to let her go on up without me and wait for the next elevator was strong, I held the door, greeted her, and followed them in. Between the first and third floor I had a Labrador’s warm, wet nose tucked into the palm of my hand, grateful that its owner could not witness my tears, but even more grateful for the momentary trust her companion placed in a complete stranger. For once, I didn’t mind the contraption’s slow pace. It gave me extra time to compose myself before taking care of the business I was there to conduct in the first place, and just enough time to reconsider giving my heart away once again one day on the way back down.


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