such a good boy

Two years ago we said goodbye to the best dog we could imagine ever having. T lived a full 15-1/2 years. So long for a big boy of 85-pounds.

He was our first kid.

Our first combined love.

And, our first companion through life’s largest milestones. Condensed into one lifetime.

Our first home – a sweet, incredibly tiny rental in the darling craftsman filled neighborhood of the Lettered Streets.

Our wedding day in the darkness and peace of full winter in February.

Our first home, to the tune of a mortgage payment three times our rent. The one that was “perfect” because it was fully fenced and already broken in by the previous owners’ pups.

The birth of Pepper. His constant impatience with her consistent reappearance every time we returned home offset by the constant droppings of food bits and overturned dishes from the highchair.

The birth of V. His appreciation for her awareness of his personal boundaries. Her quiet nature to be close by sharing toy after toy and placing them gently on his bed near his head.

The growing of kids with personalities deeply grooved since before birth.

His death was beautiful. It was as perfect as loss can be and just the way it should be. Pain free. A clear and very deep reluctance to just go and be done living. A choice to stop getting up and a companion’s mutual understanding of the time that it was. The grief was incredibly deep and raw. It is still there and moving forward. With time, the muck is less sloggy and gripping.

With T’s memory, we put him up higher on the pedestal he already lived on.

He was my best boy.

His life was a string of perfect memories from a perfect dog.

One year later, we made the decision to love again. It was both rash and over analyzed. We were constantly nagged with pleas from Pepper and V. It was not just a foolish childhood desire, it was a deep need to have one of their own. A dog who loved them as much, if not more, than me and Thor. A dog who was part of our family of four and did not view the kids as an awkward tangent from the young pairing.

G was just that pup. A humane society litter born to a mom rescued from a kill-shelter in California. He was the shepherd mix we wanted. Our serendipitous meeting with the 5-week old fluffball took our hearts and sealed the inevitable deal. Summer ended with full on puppyhood and all of us engrossed in this new adventure.

We were ready. Fully and completely. Prepared and set. All the logistics were organized and handled.

G was everything we wanted and simultaneously, not at all what we expected. We were aware of the 180-degree shift we were doing from an aging senior to an immeasurably energetic pup. We were not prepared for the effect of our pedestal. The goal that a slighted memory made impossible.

G barked all the time. T never did.

G was overly excitable and a manic greeter of other dogs. T had the wise demeanor of a Buddhist monk and was content to just “be”.

G jumped with exuberance on all visitors. T laid on his bed and waved hello with a calm tail wag and raised eyebrow.

G chased and lunged at any and all small creature that crossed his field of vision. T coexisted with chickens and loped along with the wandering herd of neighborhood cats.

As time stretches, I wonder how accurate these memories are. How ill-defined the pedestal is as a piece of reality.

With all of this “different”, the image was the “same”. Eerily similar.

T was adopted at 5 months old. He was long and lean with scrawny legs and flippy flop ears that were undecided about whether to stand up or splay sideways. He was a gawky puppy moving into teenagerhood. His humane society advertisement was “shepherd/collie mix”

G was a round ball, a dark face dotted with lively eyes, and a fitting nickname of “big chunk”. His shelter provided DNA profile was overwhelmingly german shepherd with the catchall “mixed breed”.

At a year old, G is nearly identical to T. The only disparities being erect ears and a darker muzzle in G. Weight, body coloring, coat shaping and feel. All the same.

In every look, I see only G. But, in the shadows and the shift from the corner of my eye there is a ghostly recognition. It is not creepy or strange. It is oddly comforting. And, also a constant reminder of how different the contents of the package are from the wrapping.

Death has a way of glossing over the imperfections of life. Post mortem offers a glimpse of perfectionism. The memorial services rarely touch on the absent father’s years of missed activities and family functions. Or the grandma’s fastidious organization that could bubble into angry outbursts. To remember the dead in anything but positive light would be tantamount to social suicide.

Over the last few months, I have fallen hard and fast as a victim to this mindset. The pedestal we had placed T on has not given any space for uniqueness of G.

There has been no grace for him.

And, consequently a self inflicted judgment on my own vulnerability in raising a less than perfect dog.

It is through purposeful actions that I am changing this injustice. An injustice for both T and G. And me.

I am pulling from the memories and talking about the imperfections of T. To remember his apathy for children is not a slight on his overall fabulousness. And, markedly, it leaves room to highlight and fully embrace the adoration and patience G has with our children. They are his people. Walks may be a struggle in this moment with G, but they were not without discord for T either. The walk in the park is a figment of my mind’s tricks. A very cushy and soft outline of the truth.

I was blessed with a once in a lifetime dog with T for 15 years of life. My girls are blessed with their once in a lifetime dog with G.

And, he is my good boy.

Such a good boy.

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