The first dog I ever really loved was one I met thirteen years ago at my first job out of college. I had grown up in a house full of animals—three dogs included— but as a kid, I didn’t care so much about them. I loved them as kittens and puppies, but once they were past that, and real responibility set in, they may as well have been my dad’s. As I got older and our animals passed on, I got used to life without them. So here I was, not really a pet person, and I land this job in a studio working for a guy with a little Jack Russell named Henry. I would see him every day, because my boss would bring him, because in New York, that’s what people do. I was pretty much smitten with him right off the bat, and working in this small-office environment and being my boss’s right-hand-(wo)man, I quickly became dog-walker, dog-sitter and playmate. And soon, I found myself loving the little guy like he was my own.
Funny how history repeats itself—how years later I landed at a new job, with a new boss, with the same name, and…a dog. This time, however, instead of it being a spry, little Jack Russell at an office in the West Village, it was a 65-lb Golden Retriever in midtown. And rather than be a real city pup like Henry was, having been adopted into a Manhattan home at only weeks old, this one was an inheritance, left behind by deceased parents; a country dog from Jersey that had never set paw in the city, let alone been on a walk down Eighth Avenue.
When I first heard the dog first would be joining us, I didn’t think much of it. But days into the new situation, once I realized that as assistant to this dog’s owner, I would be next in line as daytime caregiver, I wasn’t so thrilled. Selfishly, it was this very lack of interest in having such responsibility in my life, that had kept me, for so many years, from ever getting a pet of my own. I didn’t want to be part-time dog-walker.
But how could I say no to those puppy dog eyes.
So I went along with it… most often times, instead of walking the dog, being walked by the dog—because at 65 pounds, this guy was quite strong.
A few months into this new routine, my boss asked me one day if I wanted to look for a dog walker to take over. I jumped at the chance. Relief! But before I ended up finding one, something came over me. I started appreciating my walks with the dog. I turned what I had been looking at as a task, into something I cherished. I began to love our midday strolls, whether in the sun or under a cloudy sky. It was time away from the phones and the emails, just the two of us. And funny…it happened so fast I didn’t even realize… we eventually got to a point that he wasn’t walking me, but that I was actually walking him. We had a route. We had a rhythm. Me and Boo, Boo and me. And soon, I began to love him just the way I loved Henry—like he was my own.
But of course when you love an animal so much, it’s only harder when you lose them.
Boo died last week.
I had known that he was sick, so in a way I was prepared. Still, you never really are ready for the day when it finally does arrive, the sadness that consumes you, the great void you feel with this sweet creature suddenly absent. Someone said it best the other day– how our relationships with our pets are like no others, in that they are so simple, but at the same time, so genuine. I miss Boo coming to my desk to say hello, nudging me with his wet nose because he needs to go out, sniffing around me as I eat my lunch, waiting for a scrap to fall, or even just curling up on the floor beside me. I keep thinking back to when I first met him, how in the beginning we were strangers, how clumsy our walks were. And then I think of how in the end, we had come so far. I really got to love this dog.
It was Tuesday when Boo died, the first day back to work after the long holiday weekend. As crazy as it may sound, I like to think he waited to go, until he could see us all once more– that maybe he even waited so we could have that one last walk together. One of my co-workers and I were talking the other day about how great it would be if pets never died, but instead could stay on forever and be passed along from person to person or family to family whenever someone was in need of that unconditional love they’re so good at giving.
Like when any loved one passes, I have to believe that Boo is in a better place now, free from any pain or struggle. I wish of course he could have stayed with us forever, but I feel so lucky to have had him in my life even for the short time that I did.
My friend, I miss you.