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How do I say good-bye to the perfect friend? A friend who never judged me, mistreated me, disrespected me, or criticized me for my mistakes; a friend who was always there for me and never once let me down when I needed her; a friend who clearly saw all of my flaws and imperfections yet loved me unconditionally; a friend who never made it all about her, never talked about me behind my back, never held a grudge, never held me at fault for any of my misspoken words or actions. No matter what type of mood I was in she was always genuinely content just spending time with me and accepted me for who I was.

It is rare to find a friend who possesses all of these qualities, yet they existed in mine. Our relationship was perfected in trust and loyalty and because of that we shared an unbreakable bond. There was never an ounce of aggression or contempt between us and when she looked me straight in the eyes, it was with kindness and love…always love.

In so many ways she was my best friend, and sadly I lost her to cancer last February. I think anyone would find it hard to say good-bye to a friend of this caliber yet some will think I am silly for mourning the loss of my dog in this manner. But for those of us who are pet lovers and owners, when we lose our companion it feels as if we have lost a part of our family.

I know it’s cliché to say this, but she wasn’t just any dog, she was special. She was a beautiful buff Cocker Spaniel with the sweetest, most gentle demeanor and her name was Snickers. We raised her from a puppy and had the joy of having her in our family for almost 12 years. It would be unfair of me to say she shared a special bond with only me. My husband and my children were the apples of her eye, and she treated them with just as much love and affection. She was our gentle protector and through the years she grew into a faithful and loyal companion.

I remember the day I brought her home. My children and I woke up early and eager on a Saturday morning and drove to Dillon to meet a woman who had a litter of full-blooded Cocker Spaniels. She had seven buff colored puppies for us to choose from. For a brief moment I panicked when I saw them. What had I done? What had I gotten myself into? Clearly I hadn’t thought things through. The task of choosing just one was going to be dreadful, especially if the three of us couldn’t come to an agreement. Thankfully, my fears subsided as  the answer came quickly. While her siblings frolicked and played and trampled over each other, paying me no bit of attention when I knelt down beside them, she came right to me. And when I reached out to pick her up, she licked me finger. She melted my heart in that one single moment. She was the one. She wasn’t the largest of the litter, nor the smallest. She was just perfect.

It’s a sad fact that we outlive our pets, but one that most pet owners are willing to accept when opening up their hearts and homes to a furry friend. I grew up with pets (cats, dogs, birds) and can’t remember a time we didn’t have one or more in our home.

German Shepherds were always my mom’s choice of breed when it came to dogs. Now most families of five would prefer when choosing such a large breed of dog, to make them outdoor pets. This was never the case with my family. My mom made sure every German Shepherd we owned, no matter how big they grew, remained in the house. I remember Cezar, our white German Shepherd, there was Mork and Mindy, our two love birds, our cat Mittens, later there was Jo-Jo, our 90 lb. male German Shepherd who our neighbors and friends often referred to as Cujo.

And there was Sheena. When I first met my husband he had Sheena who became “our” cat after we got married. Sheena had for the most part been an outside cat that he had for eight or nine years. We took her into our home and made her a permanent house cat and together, we had her for another 10 years. I don’t know which one of us cried harder the day we had to put her to sleep.

So losing a pet isn’t new to me. But there was something different about Snickers. Losing her was a heartbreaking experience, one that I prefer not to go through again. There have been times I would have given anything to be able to come home and see her wagging her rear end with so much joy and happiness. She didn’t have a tail to wag, just a nub, so when she got excited, her entire rear end would shake back and forth.  

My husband and I both vowed it would be a very long time before we even entertained the idea of having another pet.

And then came Jack….

That’s right, not even six months after losing Snickers, along came this 6-8 week old abandoned puppy who my daughter and I happened to see running frantically down the middle of a busy road dodging vehicles. I pulled over, opened my door and he immediately ran to me. I picked him up and he licked my face with so much excitement I could have sworn he was smiling.

I took him home knowing all too well what my husband’s reaction would be. NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT! It was just too soon after losing Snickers. So my daughter and I took him to the vet, had him checked out and reluctantly asked what the best options were for him. We took him back home and kept him for the night knowing he would be going to the humane society the next morning.  

No amount of begging could have changed my husband’s mind. My daughter and I took him to the humane society in Florence where he was quarantined for 10 days, then put up for adoption. On day 10, his cute little picture was posted on the shelter’s adoption website and I knew it would only be a matter of minutes before someone adopted him. I sent my husband a text, along with his picture and I was right….it was only a matter of minutes when (you never would have guessed this in a million years) my husband called me and asked me one simple question….would having this puppy make me happy?

Our rescue puppy Jack is now a healthy 56 lb. German Shepherd/Lab mix who has found a permanent place in our hearts and home. Having him hasn’t made me forget about sweet Snickers, but it has made me realize just how having a pet brings so much joy and happiness (and yes sometimes a lot of frustration) into our lives.

As for my husband? I’ll let you decide… he has more selphies of him and Jack than he does of him and me… just sayin’.

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