This morning I woke up thinking about loyal, sweet Gwennie. Even though she has been gone two years, I can still almost feel her. Her head on the bed, staring at me, willing me to wake up. Her toenails, click, click, clicking as she follows Scott’s heel closely as he gets ready in the morning. That spot, that spot right between her ears where the fur is softest. Silky. Those big, droopy adoring eyes. Yes. I can still almost feel her.
We have loved and lost several dogs over the years, and we feel big holes in our lives, but nothing like the loss of Gwennie. Nothing. The special thing about Gwennie you see, was that she was “The Family Dog.” We got her when the girls were little. She grew up with them, they with her, our memories of her are blurred with memories of us as a family.
When I say that I can still hear and feel Gwennie, yes, I can still hear her toenails, I can still feel the silky fur between her ears, but I can also hear the sound the girls made when we surprised them with her. Squeals and laughter. Little girls who dressed her up and had tea parties with her. And I can still feel her snuggled with us when we piled on the couch, or lay on the floor to watch silly movies together, tossing her popcorn, she never let one hit the floor.
One by one our girls left home to go to college. Gwennie got older, and soon it was Scott, Gwennie and I. As each girl left our house got a little bigger, a little more empty. A lot more quiet. Finally, the sounds we were left with was that click, click, clicking of Gwennie’s toenails as she followed us more closely than ever, missing her girls.We had Kona, but she came into our lives after two of the girls were already out of the house, and while our baby was picking out colleges. So Kona is loved, she is fun, but Gwennie was the family dog.
Christmas breaks, spring breaks, maybe some time in the summer, the girls returned. The noise and activity level increased. Their friends visited, the house livened up, and so did Gwennie.
Naturally though, first one, then another of my girls decided to “stay and work” where they went to school, or “keep their apartment,” or even go to school in Europe one summer, and they stopped coming back. Which, my good friend tells me, they are, “Supposed to do.” True. But hard.
So that terrible night that we lost Gwennie, it was not just Gwennie, but it was the family dog, the dog we had when we had a family. And it double broke my heart. It was the end of one period in our lives that had been sneaking up on us for a long time. So that stage was really over. Door closed. Hard to believe, hard to shift.
Hard to shift, but not impossible. Scott and I found a freedom we didn’t have before. Fly to Portland for a Fleetwood Mac concert? Road trip? Long vacations? Sure! We started saying “Yes” to those things. And then. Then. Our little dwindling family started to grow again. There were other dogs. But also the people who have come into our lives, the spouses and fiance’s and now. A little guy named Weston.We became grandparents. So, if we have shifted to a new stage in our lives, it is a spectacular one!
This morning I woke up thinking about Gwennie and it made me smile.
3 thoughts on “What it Means to be a Family Dog.”
Beautiful tribute. Sometimes they never leave us. Their love is golden.