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R.I.P. Best Friend

We knew she was the one the first moment we spotted her in the large group of puppies in the play area. “I want that one,” I said as I pointed at her. I was about 10 years old and I loved the dog I already had but I felt a special connection to this adorable one with the distinct brown coloring around her eyes. She looked like she was going to be scruffy, but not too scruffy, and I could tell she would turn out to be one of my best friends. My family agreed.

We took her home and decided her name was Mandy. The name just came to us, and it made sense and it fit with how she looked. She was the size of a little rabbit and would fall asleep in our hands. As she grew, she began to love her tug-of-war toys and her tennis balls. We played and played, and usually I got tired out before her. She would jump on us and nudge us so we would keep playing, and since she was so cute she usually got her way.

She chased the birds and the lizards in the backyard. She jumped up and down on the concrete wall in the backyard to try to get to the neighbors’ dogs, though she only got over it once. Even when she finally succeeded, she didn’t know what to do in the neighbor’s yard so she just froze and waited for me to come get her. We would walk and jog up and down the arroyo by the house, and we would go to the park where I would let her off the leash so she could run around and be free.

I would come home from school or work and she would run to greet me. I would pet her sweet face and say hi, and then she’d run to the kitchen and want me to give her a treat. She LOVED human food. She would eat anything except lettuce and tomatoes. Literally, everything. Whoever said dogs can’t eat chocolate obviously never knew a dog like her. She was like our shadow and would always be right behind us waiting for the next treat.

If I was working on my computer, she would lie across it when she wanted attention. If I went into the laundry room, she would stare up at the treats and give me puppy eyes that were so cute and would make me give in and feed her a treat. If I went into the garage, she would stare up at her leash and whine a little because she wanted to go for a walk. During Christmastime, if she wasn’t getting attention she would walk behind the Christmas tree and knock some ornaments off just to make us notice her (and make us mad, ha). She was quite hyper and needy at times, but she didn’t like to be in trouble and she knew when it was time to settle down.

She had the typical Jack Russell look to her, and she had the cutest little head tilt when she was intrigued by something. She quickly learned the words “outside,” “ball,” “play,” “bye bye car,” “walk,” and “night.” She ran really fast and would bolt outside to chase something, whether there actually was something out there or not. She acted like a hunting dog and she would let out a pathetic howl that was supposed to intimidate other animals, though it really just made us laugh. She had a great personality and obvious emotions – more than any dog I have ever encountered. If she would do something silly and we would laugh at her, she would noticeably get embarrassed and walk away. She knew when we were sad, and it would make her sad, too. She would curl up with us to make us feel better, and it always worked.

She had a good sense of people. She liked good people, and she knew who were not-so-good people even if I couldn’t see it yet. She wanted us all to herself, so she didn’t like other dogs much. She was good with people and loved having visitors to feed her treats and play with her. When my best friend and I were feeling nostalgic, he would come over to play Nintendo and she would sit right on his controller so he would have to pet her instead of playing the video game. She was lively, energetic, and a great friend to have. Chasing her around the house was one of my favorite things to do, and when she finally gave up she would roll over and let me pick her up to pet her.

Throughout the years, she became more and more tired and turned into a “snuggler.” Her face turned mostly white and she no longer wanted to play with her toys or the tennis ball. She slowed down but was still cuter than any other dog I had ever seen. She loved sleeping in my bed, and she would hide in the blankets when I would try to take her outside or put her in her own bed so that I could leave. When she turned 16 years old, she was sleeping most of the day and it was obvious she was becoming more uncomfortable.

I was working in a different state when it was her time to get put down. I had seen her a week prior and it was clear she was tired and ready. I told her that I love her and I promised I would never forget her. She licked my hand one last time and I took one more glance at her sweet face before shutting the door behind me. I asked my parents not to tell me she was gone until that evening so I wouldn’t get upset while I was at work; however, I went outside during my lunch break, and though it was clear skies and sunny, rain was falling. At first I was confused, but then I realized it was her telling me she had passed but she is okay.

Writing this made me sadder than I thought, but it also reminded me that I had many, many good times with her. It wasn't uncomfortable, but it did make me emotional. I enjoyed it, because it brought back memories of her and those were all very happy. The words easily flowed because we all have plenty to write when it comes to that special person or animal in our lives. Even though the grief is still raw, and I will always miss my dog, the sign she sent me the day she left us meant she is back to being a little puppy and trying to hop the concrete wall in Heaven.

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