Every time I came home for the past 15 years, Buffy the Chihuahua was happy to see me. Every time I wanted to go on a walk, she was ready rain or shine.
Now, for the first time in a quarter century, there is no dog in our home.
We learned in January that Buffy had kidney disease, and the vet expected her to live only two or three more months. That proved accurate, but her loss was no less brutal.
Dogs become part of your family, and for a few years we had three of them. “That’s not a pack,” a neighbor shouted as my wife was walking them. “That’s a tribe.”
It’s amazing how attached humans get to dogs. I recently read of a Ukrainian refugee who was set to enter the US under a special program until, after reaching the border crossing in Tijuana, she learned that dogs from Ukraine weren’t allowed in since the country has a high risk of rabies. She spent several days in Mexico, delaying her slot to enter the US, before she found an American who would bring her dog in without the scrutiny applied to non-Americans. Then she agreed to cross the border.
The woman said she wouldn’t have left Europe if she knew it meant leaving her dog behind. Part of me says this is ridiculous given the risks she took to escape the war in Ukraine and migrate to the US That seems so much more important than a dog.
And part of me completely understands this refugee. I felt this immense sadness when Buffy left our lives. She had pretty much stopped eating the last week or two, but I still felt I was letting her down when we walked into our vet’s office for her final visit.
Toward the end, just three days before she died, we went on our standard walk around the long block across the street. It used to take us 10 minutes or so. This time it took Buffy 30 minutes, but she still fulfilled her duty with pride. She was clearly close to the end, but she hadn’t stopped being our dog.
I guess that is what makes dogs so endearing. Dogs don’t draw limits on what they’ll do for us. And we don’t draw limits about how we feel about them.
We’re not getting another dog. I’m not ready. Even if I were, my wife, Clarissa, doesn’t want to take on the hassles and responsibilities.
But we may be ready again someday. And one thing you can count on: There will be a dog out there ready for us.
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