I was 15 and a few weeks away from getting my license. I had agreed to go to my twin brother’s soccer tournament to help cheer them on. During the game, there was a young girl with a little fluffy puppy walking around behind me. It had been a couple of years since my dog Pooh, (she was named after Winnie the Pooh but it dawns on me for the first time that’s what I would yell out – no wonder the neighbors always looked at me funny) had passed and I was always looking for opportunities to pet dogs – especially puppies. This pup was jet black with a little white stripe on her chest, she had huge ears that were twice the size of her head and her coat felt like velvet. It was love at first sight and her name was Dazi.
I’ve had a number of dogs in my life but Dazi, well, she was different. And she knew it. I don’t think she ever considered herself a dog. Everywhere she went, she would claim a seat for herself. She had to be at the same level as humans. This wasn’t something we trained her to do…it was just her personality. She had these expressions and looks that were just so human, and a side-eye that had you wondering if you were the dog. She was easy in every way, maybe minus her obsession with tennis balls. She could sniff one out from a mile away and ALWAYS found one on every walk, even if that meant taking the neighbor’s balls as her own. If you ever wanted to see a missile in the water all you had to do was throw the ball out into a lake.
As she got older, she still found the energy to run after balls. At one point she developed a growth on her side which slowed her down a bit, we named it Side Boob Bob. We thought it might be cancer but turned out to be benign and we were able to have it removed. She never did grow into her ears and forever stayed the perfect size that made her look like a forever puppy.
This year on the day before Thanksgiving, Dazi was 17 years old. She still slowly took 3 short walks a day and still would chow down at mealtime even though she had nubs for teeth. But on this day she was having a hard time breathing, so we took her into the vet. I tell myself that it’s probably a cold…but deep down I know it’s her time. She led the perfect life, she was perfect in all the right ways, and I wanted her last moments to be in her bed slipping away peacefully. She was stubborn like that though, and this was her way of saying she needed help crossing the rainbow bridge.
I had never had to make that decision before, and it wasn’t easy. She had been with me for half of my life. We had grown up together. I had known her longer than I’ve known my husband. I got her right before I started working at Denali Dreams, she was one of our shop dogs – and mascot. My kids were now old enough to be aware of her and loved to cuddle with her. She had been a guide who was there for me in all the way dogs are and loved unconditionally. But, I needed to let her go.
It is the hardest decision I’ve had to make, I cried for days. I know that she lived an incredible life with the only regret of not chasing more tennis balls. But – grief is a tough thing to work through. I recently stumbled upon a quote by Jamie Anderson that brought a little peace to my aching heart. “Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corner of your eyes and lump in your throat, and in the hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”
These animals leave such an imprint on our hearts and they give all they have. May we all take a little lesson from Dazi and love more unconditionally, and with ease.