Tag Archives: rainbow bridge

Welcome to my dog’s Irish wake

Attention! Attention, everyone! *tings whiskey glass*

First, let me just say thank you all for coming. As I’m sure you know, we’re here to celebrate the life of my beloved and dearly departed Buffy. To toast to his memory and give him a proper sendoff. 

Now, there are many myths and legends surrounding that ridiculous old mutt. All of them true, I can assure you. His was a very Dickensian beginning. A small orphaned puppy found shivering in a snowy field. Abandoned. Dirty. Hungry. The only thing missing was a tiny tattered newsboy cap. How could we say no? Even if he did smell like dumpster fire. 

Right away we knew we were in trouble. That first night, we made a makeshift kennel for him. He immediately escaped. We added reinforcements. He immediately escaped. We added more. This time it took him five whole minutes to escape. After that he slept in our bed. 

And every single night thereafter. 

That outsized personality only grew bigger as he grew older. I mean, I live in a house swarming with screaming redheaded children and yet, without him, it seems empty now. Everywhere I look has a Buffy-sized hole in it. And there are crumbs now. I haven’t seen crumbs in 15 years…

Oof. Sorry. Got a bit misty-eyed there. Where was I? Ah, yes, clearly Ryan and I were far from model dog owners but Buffy, to his credit, did do his best to train us. In fact, it only took him about three months to teach us to never let the bottom of the food bowl show and that if he was straining on the leash we needed to speed up, not the other way around. 

That was the thing about Buffy. He was smart. Much, much smarter than us. And stubborn. So stubborn. When I dared to buy him a fluffy new dog bed this winter, he would stare defiantly at me as he walked toward it and then plopped painfully down beside it on the cold, hardwood floor. That dog was so stubborn that when he showed the first signs of decline on Christmas Eve, my husband cuddled with him on the floor and asked him to try to hold on through the holidays. For the family. 

He made it until January 14th.

Oh wow. Sorry. No tears. No tears today. Today we celebrate his life. Speaking of which, I’d like to give a shout out to my mom here, who taught me that you love a dog for his entire life. Beginning to end. From soup to nuts, if you will. Which is funny because Buffy lost his pretty early on. I finally apologized to him for that, by the way. The last time I saw him. He was laying on a blanket at the animal hospital, my own body wrapped around him, his eyes in so much pain I’m not even sure he recognized me. 

It all happened so fast. 

He probably would have made beautiful puppies. 

Ah. Again. With the crying. Sorry. This is all just so…Hey! Did I ever tell you guys how Buffy ended up with his name? It’s a great story. Ryan and I were just getting to know each other and joking about how any future dog we get should be named after the show that helped bring us together. It was only a few weeks later that he held up a smelly, wet, filthy ball of fur with giant brown eyes and said “can we keep him?” And I replied “only under one condition.”

You know, no one ever really deserves a dog. And yet, they still walk beside us every step of the way.

I never asked to be loved like that. I don’t even know how it was possible. He consistently saw me at my worst. My most flawed and human self. He saw that, day after day, for 15 years, and still loved me. 

And then he had the nerve to die. 

You can’t love someone unconditionally like that and then just leave them. How dare he! What do I do now? Just live without him by my side? I don’t know how to do that anymore. 

I mean, what kind of ridiculous creature let’s you cry into his fur when you’re sad and yell at him when he doesn’t deserve it because you’re mad about something else and forgives you every single time you walk out that door and he has no idea when you’ll be back, and through it all is never, ever not happy to see you? 

A stupid dog, that’s who. A creature so damned wonderful that I needed to write up a fictional wake for him after his death to help me process the devastating loss I just experienced…

Oof. Again, I apologize. Sobbing tends to make people uncomfortable. *chugs fictional whiskey* Besides, a wake, even a fictional one, is about celebration. And when it comes down to it, Buffy had a long and incredible life. One that deserves to be honored and remembered. 

He deserves better than this. But let it be known I tried. 

And so, everyone, if we could, let’s all raise a glass and take a drink to help send that gorgeous little puppy of mine on his way over the rainbow bridge. May you all be fortunate enough to find a best friend like him someday. 

To Buffy! 

Sláinte! 

Buffy.

I’m writing this now, ahead of time. Before we know. I felt it would be easier this way. That I would be more level-headed, less emotional this way. Although I’m already crying so that pretty much backfired. 

Then again, is it ever possible to write about your dog without tearing up? 

The vet said we should start with a chest x-ray, which is scheduled a few days from now. To see if it has spread. There’s a small chance that the tumor on the roof of his mouth is benign but I know that even if it is, this is still probably the beginning of the end. He’s almost 14. The average lifespan of a dog is 10-13 years. We’re already living on borrowed time. 

Whatever the diagnosis, I’m a bit at a loss of what to do. Soon there will be decisions to make. Hard decisions. 

And yet, just like he always has, he trusts me. 

The thing that haunts me the most in this awful limbo between knowing and not knowing is an equally awful question. Did I give him a good enough life? It’s only now, as we head toward the inevitable end, that I’m fully realizing the nature of our relationship meant he depended on me and my family for everything. We were his world. But just like the world at large, we were a bit of a dumpster fire.

All the mistakes. There were so many. I didn’t socialize him enough as a puppy. I fed him the cheap stuff. I wasn’t consistent on training. There should have been more fetch and less binge-watching Netflix while sneaking him french fries. 

I took him on a thousand walks. It should have been two thousand.

And yet, in spite of it all, he loves me. 

I was 24 when my roommate showed me a recently rescued bedraggled ball of fluff that smelled like hot garbage. 

“You did say you wanted to get a dog.” the roommate said. 

I picked the ball up and looked in its terrified brown eyes. Sold. Instantly. I kissed the top of its furry stinky head. Regretted it. Instantly. 

“It’s a boy, you say?”

“Yeah,” he replied. 

“Remember when I said if we get a dog I’m naming it Buffy?”

The roommate smiled. 

“Buffy it is then.”

(And that is also the story of how the roommate eventually became my husband). 

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It was this male dog named Buffy who forced me to grow up. He was so smart. Part border collie. He was constantly outwitting me. He was also anxious. Fearful. Edgy. Understandably so. He had been dumped in a field in late fall. And we suspect he’d been abused before then. 

But that also made him fiercely loyal and loving. 

He even eventually forgave me for leaving him for days and then returning home with a baby in tow. And then managed to forgive me again, a few years later, when I did it all over again. I spent months ignoring him while trying to keep these tiny interlopers alive. Months yelling “stop licking the baby!” and “drop it, that’s the baby’s toy!”

And yet, he patiently waited to be noticed again, sneaking onto my lap on those rare chances when it was free. 

It’s often said that we don’t deserve dogs. That they’re too good for us. For this world. But what I find amazing about dogs is that they keep inspiring us to try. Even though we humans are basically giant bags of meat and flaws, we keep trying to deserve them. That’s how strong a dog’s love is. Strong enough to make selfish and self-destructive humans look in the mirror and say quietly to themselves “today I’m going to be the person my dog thinks I am.” 

And even though we fail in this, over and over and over again, whenever we look into their eyes we vow to try again the next day. 

My hope is that some day, some beautiful, bright day, we will finally learn all they are trying to teach us. But until then I want to say thank you, Buffy. For all the lessons. I was a horrible student. And yet, through it all, you never gave up on me. 

I’ll be damned if I give up on you now. No matter what the future holds. 

And when we finally do know what that future holds, I promise to be there until the very end, my friend. 

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