|Lenny and Stephen circa 2000|
About two weeks ago, my son and I had the painful task of having to put our beloved beagle, Lenny, to sleep. Lenny gave us fifteen amazingly great years of unconditional doggy love. He was fiercely loyal coupled with a tender, sweet spirit. Those of you who are dog owners know all too well that the loss of dog is alike to losing a family member. The loss leaves a chasm in your heart that will ache in a way you could never have imagined.
I have so many special memories of Lenny but one stands out above the rest. It was a few months after my divorce. I had awakened in the middle of the night, with my heart deeply broken and was sobbing. Lenny, sensing my hurt, jumped up on my bed, put his head on my chest, nuzzled his nose up near my face and gently licked my tears. He then looked at me with those soulful, big brown eyes of his as if to say, “I’m sorry you’re in pain but know that I love you very, very much”. From that moment on we had this unbreakable bond.
When you own a pet, a dog in particular, you look with different eyes and a different heart to see and feel the love they give you each and every day. It’s in all the small moments. Moments that can be easily missed if you’re not fully open and aware to their presence. It’s the wagging of the tail when you speak with them. It’s the bursting with joy and happy yelps each and every time you come home, even if you were gone for only ten minutes. It’s the gentle nuzzle they give while curled up on the couch with you. It’s looking down on the floor and seeing them right beside you, always. It’s the absolute excitement they have when they hear you get their leash to take them for a walk. It’s the fierce bark they emit when they sense danger and ready to protect you, even if it costs them their lives. It’s the thousands of kisses and unending affection they exude letting you know how insanely they love you.
Lenny, despite his sweet nature, also had a mischievous side. He had a penchant for getting into the trash. One funny situation was when he got his nose stuck in an empty peanut butter jar and was sitting in the middle of the living room, trash all around him and the jar stuck on his nose. We called it “Exhibit A, Case Closed”. He also seemed to have a fetish for stealing my panties out of the laundry and hiding them under the bed. I don’t know if he was a perv disguised as a dog or owned a lingerie shop in a former life, but it always perplexed me that he seemed to enjoy my “delicates” so much. Lenny was also a bit of a Houdini, in that he would dig a hole under our fence and escape from the yard, only to be returned like an fugitive by one of our neighbors. Despite his silly antics, we loved him as unconditionally as he loved us.
When Lenny’s health declined these past few months, I knew all too well that my days with my beloved furry friend were waning down. I had this constant lump in my throat knowing that soon I would have to say goodbye. We were told we would have about a year, but sadly we had about one month. Nothing prepares you for that moment when you have to let them go. I held him in my arms until his final heartbeat. He had been by my side through thick and thin and I was not going to leave his in his final moments. I repeatedly told him how much I loved him and how sorry I was that he was so sick and had to leave us. The second he was gone I wept uncontrollably. This pain, from a place that hurts so deeply, rose up and overwhelmed me. This furry ball of love that had provided me with so many years of joy and unconditional love was now gone. The vet let me stay with him for a few minutes afterwards. Through my tears, I gently kissed his head and whispered in his long soft ears one last I love you.
I walked in with a dog and left with an empty collar. A symbolic reminder of all the amazingly wonderful moments we had. A reminder of a dog whose only purpose was to bring happiness and love to his family. A dog, who did all that and more. A dog who left more than a paw print on my heart.
They say all dogs go to heaven. If this is so, then I truly hope Lenny is enjoying his favorite treats, tummy rubs and running around the celestial city with all of his canine buddies. And, should heaven have peanut butter then I can only hope they have the trash barrels locked up.
Farewell my wonderfully sweet, wet nosed, milk bone loving, furry little friend!