So, this is going to be a bit of a sentimental post, and probably a rambler. I can't really tell yet. Much like Michael Scott in The Office, sometimes I just start a sentence or a paragraph or, heck, a blog post, and hope I figure out where I'm going as I write. All I know is I feel like I need to get something out on paper, and this blinking cursor and blank white page represents the digital pencil and notepad of my generation.
This is a blog, and a site, about photography. But sometimes I think it's good for you guys to get to know me a little bit, even if that means showing a little vulnerability. So, in the spirit of such sentiment, here goes.
I lost one of my dogs yesterday. I should say "we" lost one of "our" dogs yesterday, because my wife is feeling it as painfully am I, and even though our six-year-old doesn't quiiiiiite seem to fully grasp what's going on, she gets the gist and is sad. And yes, by "lost" I don't mean she ran off. We had to have her put to sleep.
See, Katie and I have been married for more than a decade. And the first grownup decision we made together, after getting married, was to buy a house. The second, a bit later, was to get a dog. Katie is mad allergic to pets, but does well with her folks' cairn terrier because they're a breed that apparently trends toward the hypoallergenic end of the scale. And Brindle, as he's named, had a ton of personality, which we loved. So searched for a cairn terrier pup, found one, and just like that we brought Sasnak (Kansas spelled backward, but we just call her Sassy) home. And for a year we adjusted to life with the three of us. It was fantastic. But then we began to wonder about the both of us being gone at work all day. That didn't seem fair to her, did it? She needed a buddy, right?
So almost a year later we once again went on the hunt for a cairn terrier puppy, a companion for Sassy. We found one, drove to Kearney, Mo., and came home with Lady Bexar. I know the name looks funny, but it's pronounced Lady Bear. Bexar is the name of the county where my wife is from in Texas, which houses her hometown of San Antonio, and is also a nod to Lady Bird Johnson. We figured the first one got a Kansas name, the second one would get a Texas name.
They were yin and yang in so many ways. Sassy was crazy and classic terrier. Lady was more quiet and reserved, even timid. Sassy was dark coated, Lady was blonde. But they were best buddies from the start.
THREE DAYS after we got Lady, we found out Katie was pregnant with Ellie. Three days. We both kind of threw our hands up and looked skyward like, "Are you freaking kidding me?!" more than once. But, of course, it turned out to be this huge blessing. Lady was such a laid back puppy, and she loved to snuggle against Katie's belly during naps. When she wasn't playing with Sassy, she was in Katie's lap or somewhere in the vicinity.
Then we brought Ellie home, and while Sassy was a little more standoffish (that changed as Ellie got older), Lady couldn't get enough of the baby. She ALWAYS had to be near her. She wanted to see her and constantly try to lick her. Every time Ellie cried, Lady would whine. When we would lay Ellie down on our bed, Lady would roll up next to her.
See? I'm rambling. What I'm trying to impart here is that Lady was a people dog. And I am so a dog person. She absolutely loved her family. She was the kind of dog who was so beyond excited to see you when you got home. When she wagged her tail, her whole butt shook with it. She would growl her excitement at you, and you couldn't help but talk back. As the years went by, she never lost that but she just became this comforting presence in the house. As my mom put it, she was the reason to Sassy's joyful craziness. But she permeated our lives in so many ways. She was the little bundle of body heat next to you on the couch, or the growl in the background playing tug with her sister. She was the pup sitting at the end of the bed, those big ears flicking like radar dishes at the slightest sound. God help me, she was the ear-shattering bark in the middle of the night whenever Sassy would hear a squirrel in the back yard and go berserk, rampaging out the dog door to administer dog justice as loudly as possible.
I deal with depression and general anxiety disorder. It's not fun, but it's something I just have to deal with. With medicine, and support from those I love, I get by. But I swear to God, I cannot tell you how many times I'd be having an absolute terrible day, the kind my mind had convinced me was the worst - that was never going to end - and what do I hear but a "thump" of a golden body landing on the couch cushions, the pressure of her as she settled next to me, and the weight of Lady's head resting in my lap.
Friday, we noticed a change in her behavior. We hoped maybe she just caught a bug. By Sunday night we knew it wasn't just a bug. Monday morning we went to the vet, and our worst fears were confirmed. And Monday afternoon we came home to a house a little more empty, with hearts a little less complete.
I try to take solace in the fact that Lady isn't suffering, that she won't suffer anymore. Another bit of wisdom I learned from my mom is that dogs give us 100% of their love, everything they have, while they're with us. They ask nothing in return. And when they reach the end, for us to keep them through discomfort and even pain is like trying to squeeze blood from a stone. You have to ask yourself who you're really helping. The friendly, happy, playful dog I'd known for 7.5 years was gone, and in her place was a dog who wouldn't eat, would barely go outside, would barely drink, and would have slept in the same spot 24 hours a day if we hadn't moved her.
But I miss her. You know? It doesn't seem right that the world keeps spinning, oblivious to the fact that this awesome creature who changed my family's life is no longer here. But it does. And it doesn't mean we don't have responsibilities. I'm working, Ellie is at school, Katie has school and work. But I've got this hole in my heart that keeps getting more raw by the minute, because as I walk through the house I instinctively look at all her favorite spots expecting her to be there. When I call the dogs to go outside, I realize I don't need to use the plural anymore. And when I reach up above my head at night, to the bunched up pillows where she used to sleep, I can't feel her there anymore.
You know, for a photography blog, the pictures I've included here aren't very good. The framing isn't particularly unique, they were taken with early smartphone cameras, so they're grainy and slightly blurry compared to today's standards. One is dramatically underexposed and the one below is weirdly cropped.
But in photography, we're capturing memories. It's really important to remember that. Yeah, everyone wants to look their best and you want to line up that perfect shot 99% of the time. But sometimes a seemingly ordinary picture will do just fine.
Rest well, Lady. You were the best dog anyone could have asked for, and we miss you so, so much.
Thanks for letting me get that out.