This morning, when I woke up, there was a pit in my stomach. The day had come, the one I had been agonizing over since this fall. Today, I said good-bye to a true and faithful friend of 12 years – my dog Kipper.
As I moved through this morning, scenes flashed through my brain. I remembered the morning, a little over 12 years ago when my friend Mary drove me to pick up Kipper. He was my first dog ever and a fulfillment of a lot of childhood dreams. It was a lot of pressure for a little puppy.
But Kipper lived up to it in more ways than I could have ever imagined on that morning 12 years ago.
From day one, Kipper was an easy dog. Sure, he went through that annoying stage where he wanted to nip at everyone’s heels – especially Brock when he wore these super fuzzy slippers and ran through the house.
Together, Kipper and I did puppy kindergarten class, canine good citizenship class, and finally therapy dog certification. He breezed through all of it.
Together, we probably walked over 3500 miles. I don’t know the exact distance, but we walked a mile almost every day of his life until the last year when he started to fail.
Kipper was there during some of my darkest days. I happened to be grooming him when my mom called to tell me my dad had cancer. I remember burying my face in his comforting fur and crying.
He was there during the difficult days after my brother died. I’d sit on my back porch spending time with God. The tears would fall and suddenly, Kipper would be there, putting his long, pointy head in my lap, licking my tears.
Kipper was unfailingly kind, even to small children he didn’t know who would run up and throw their arms around him. He was hard to resist in all his fluffiness, and he became somewhat of a neighborhood fixture, with some kids watching for him to pass by on our daily walks. He’d sit patiently when they wanted to awkwardly pat him a little too hard or would look in his mouth fascinated by his long, pointy muzzle. If they got too annoying, he’d just stand up and wander away if he could, or he’d send me the look. The look that said, “A little help here, if you don’t mind.”
Kipper was good company. I called him my satellite dog. He was usually circling in the vicinity and tuned in.
Despite his good nature and easygoing ways, no dog is perfect, and Kipper’s big weakness was food. He would do anything for food, and it was probably only his training that kept him from snitching more than he did.
One time, my husband had some of his assistant coaches over and we served pizza. One coach had his slice sitting on his plate which was on a tv tray. Kipper walked by and the next thing we knew, that slice of pizza was dangling from his mouth. The assistant coach snagged it back and ate it anyway.
When I brought Kipper home, my kids were 6 and 9. I remember thinking that he’d probably live at least until my youngest graduated from high school.
This morning was about more than saying good-bye to Kipper. It rings with the finality of a door closing on my children’s childhood. Kipper, even though he was probably my dog more than anyone’s, was a constant in my boys’ lives.
I’d often find Kipper sleeping between my boys’ beds. He felt it was his job to protect them, and I had to intervene with the meter reader on more than one occasion when the man tried to come in the yard when Brock and Brody were back there and I was in the house.
I often joked that Kipper and I were so alike. Both of us loved food and a good nap. Neither of us was big fans of hot weather, and the crispness of fall put a spring in both of our steps. We both had somewhat crazy hair that tended to shed – although he definitely won that contest, hands down!
I know, for a lot of people who have never had a dog or who aren’t animal lovers, it’s hard to understand how difficult losing a pet can be, but they truly become members of the family. And the responsibility of holding that life in your hands can be heavy. I really wrestled with when it was the right time. I didn’t want to do it too soon or wait too long.
But even during all of this, Kipper made things easier. Yesterday, I started second-guessing my decision. I came home, and there he was. He came over and leaned against my leg. It was like he sensed I needed a bit of comfort, even if that comfort was over him.
Even this morning, with my heart heavy, he made me smile at his eagerness for part of my danish.
Kipper grounded me in ways it’s hard to explain. He made me smile almost every day he was part of my life, and he definitely increased my joy in the present. He was a living, breathing reminder of what love and devotion look like in its simplest form.
As I sit here, grieving this loss, I was thinking about dogs in general. Out of all the animals in the world, I don’t know that there is one animal that comes in so many variations, from little to small, from mellow to hyper, from uber-friendly to fiercely protective. Almost like there is one to fit all the different kinds of people there are.
I can’t help but believe that when God created dogs, He meant them to be a gift for us. Even today, when my heart feels broken, I’m tremendously thankful for that gift.