When I first thought about fostering a dog, I wasn’t sure if I was ready for the responsibility of it all. So, to see if I was really ready, I decided to go visit a rescue shelter to meet some of the animals that needed a foster home. You were the first dog I was introduced to. We went for a walk and the rescue worker told me about your rescue story. She informed me that a little over a year ago, they rescued you. The rescuer saw you on the side of a house and thought you were pregnant, because your stomach was almost touching the ground. As it turns out, you were not pregnant at all, you had heartworms, and you were very near death from it. They picked you up and immediately took you to a specialty vet where your body was drained of excess fluids from the heartworms. They drained over 30 pounds of it, in fact. I remember they told me that as soon as they started draining your body, you started to wag your tail. You then spend a little over a year in the bathroom of one of the satellite shelters, because there was just not a lot of room for all of the rescued animals at the time. You didn’t seem to mind at all, and so many of the volunteers fell in love with you. You did not like any other animals or children, but you were very loving towards females. I think this came from being surrounded by a lot of female volunteers at the shelter. You eventually warmed up to males, but it just took a little longer. I learned all of this during our first little walk, and after looking down at your face towards the end of the walk, I knew I wanted to take you home to foster you. As soon as we hopped into my car, your smile was so big. I cracked the window for you, as is standard for a dog on a car ride, and you let the wind bring you all of the different smells of Saint Louis to your wet nose. You were happy. I could see it. I could feel it. That’s when I knew I made the right decision………….for both of us.
Since I was fostering you, and not adopting you, I had to work hard on finding you a loving home. You were a tough one to market, Etta. I attempted to take you to two or three adoption events at pet stores, and we lasted about 5 minutes before you started introducing everyone to your wanna-be vicious voice. There were other animals there and YOU DID NOT LIKE IT. We would sit at the very end of an aisle away from the others, and I hated that. You were just so sweet to me and I felt like I was doing you a disservice by even bringing you there. So, after fostering you for eleven months, I decided that this was silly, and it was time to just adopt you. You had already made the oversized chair in the living room your own. You loved to run up and down the stairs with me. You had your routine set. So, you were home already. This was your home.
Now that we’re roommates, you decided to show me who you really were……….funny as shit, sweet as shit, and a great companion. You were a character that was a welcomed addition to my life. Do you remember the time that you woke me up super early one morning, because you had to go outside, but I played the part of a frustrated teenager asking for five more minutes of sleep? During those extra five minutes, probably around minute three or four, I heard a noise resembling the sound of a babbling brook. I leaned my head up and was met with your big, brown eyes staring directly at me with a gaze of “you wanna fuck with me?” Yep. You were pissing on the carpet while staring directly into my soul. All I could do was laugh. It was my fault, and you let me know that it was. How about the time I tried to clip your nails? Remember that?! I went to the pet store and bought those amazing nail clippers for like thirty bucks. The handles were nice and soft with a good, solid grip to them. We sat on your chair together and I started just clipping tiny pieces of your nails off, in hopes of not stressing you out too much. Then you started panting quite heavily, so you were stressed, and I stopped. We hung out for a bit longer, and then I went to meet up with some friends that evening. I left those precious thirty dollar nail clippers on the coffee table before I left, not thinking much of them. When I came home later that night, I opened the door to those nail clippers lying dead on the floor with one of the handles completely bitten off. You decapitated those nail clippers and left them in a position that you just KNEW I would see first thing when I came through the door. Oh! The bird! I took you outside to do your business and while we were walking about, you dug your nose into the grass and made a move that looked like a bite. I bent down to see what you were up to and BOOM. You had a dead bird in your mouth. I immediately tried to free the dead bird from your death grip, but you would not let loose. Those big brown eyes were staring at me again after you knew I wouldn’t be able to get this bird away from you. I’ll never forget it, you looked up at me with puppy eyes, and took one giant swallow. You had eaten the bird like it was a single potato chip. I had never seen anything like it before.
You were there with me when I started my photography business, too! I would make you my main test subject for all of my new gear or ideas for photographs I would come up with. You were such a beautiful subject. We would even take holiday photographs together. Remember our Xmas card in 2013? It was my favorite one of all. I remember we attempted to make a photograph for Easter, where I made you wear bunny ears and you smacked me in the mouth with your paw, because you just wanted to play, not take photographs again. I think you were happy that I had found a passion, though. You could tell it was something that I really loved, I think. Especially in 2016 and 2017……….when I began to travel a lot.
This was the hardest part for me during our time together. I know you can’t hear me anymore, or even read for that matter, but I want you to know that I HATED leaving you behind to travel for work and/or pleasure. I loved the travel, but I thought about you every single day when I woke up, no matter where I was in the world at the time, and it kind of crushed me knowing I wasn’t there with you. You made it so easy, though, because every time I would come home from my worldly adventures, you would hop in my car after picking you up from the kennel, and that big smile would appear again. You understood time, but not in the same way that us humans do. You knew I was gone, but not for how long. You just knew that I was back, and that we were together again riding in the car back to your oversized living room chair. That’s all you ever wanted. Comfort. Love. Friendship. Companionship.
Then 2018 came around. It was a new year. I had already decided to travel less this year to spend more time at home with you, because in 2017 I was gone for almost six whole months! I didn’t like knowing that I was away from you for that long. I only had one little trip planned to Omaha, Nebraska for a fun meetup with some other photographers that they asked me to be a panel guest at. So, we did the normal routine the morning I was hitting the road. We woke up early, I gave you your favorite food, we went outside, and then hung out in the living room for a bit. Then it was off for a short car ride to the kennel, where some of your favorite people were! I checked you into the kennel and our friend, J.J., told us that she was giving us a free upgrade to a penthouse suite for you! We both walked you to the penthouse suite to sniff it out, then took you outside for a quick pee, and then I laid your favorite blanket on the floor of the suite. You got comfy in your blanket, circling around the middle of it, dragging sections of it to a position that you liked, and then plopped down for a nap. I said a HUGE goodbye to you, told you I would see you again in just two days, gave you a kiss, gave you a big old hug, and went on my way. The drive to Omaha was about six hours from the kennel. I was three hours into the drive when I received a call from the kennel. A part of me knew what this call was about when I saw the business name appear on my caller id, but it was a fleeting thought, ya know? The owner of the kennel was on the other end crying and sniffling, and then she said…..
“I am so sorry to have to make this call, but your sweet Etta passed away in her sleep. We went to do a kennel check, and it looked like she laid down to take a nap and just never woke up. I’m so sorry this happened. We all loved her here so much.”
My eyes swelled up with redness and tears. You……..you were gone. You passed away during my shortest trip of all of my travels during the year that I decided to travel less to spend more time with you. My first thought was, “I hope she didn’t think that she was a burden on my life. Or that I didn’t love her or want to spend more time with her or something.”
So, dear Etta,
I hope you know that you were NEVER a burden on my life.
I hope you know that I loved EVERY second I spent with you.
I hope you know that you were loved by so many people throughout your life.
I hope you had a great time with me.
I hope you know that you got me through some really difficult times.
I hope you know that I couldn’t have gotten through those times without you, I don’t think.
I hope that I never let you down in any way.
I hope that I was everything you wanted in an animal parent.
I hope that you know I will never forget you.
I hope you know that I miss you more than anything I’ve ever fucking missed in my entire life.
Rest In Peace, my dear sweet Etta.
-your dog dad