World's Best Dog
My Best Friend
One of a Kind
Today we said goodbye to our 10 year old Golden Retriever, Reagan, and I can say almost none of those things about him.
He was not the World's Best Dog.
He was not my "best friend". In truth, at times he felt like my nemesis.
But, he was indeed, one of a kind. And in the end that is why we are shedding tears and mourning the passing of our big, crazy-making, food-obsessed, disobedient, infuriatingly lovable dog.
He was not the "World's Best Dog". But he was our dog.
And in fairness to Reagan, he didn't come to us at the easiest time. We didn't know it was a bad time, or that it would become a bad time, but maybe we should have known better. We had two young boys and I was pregnant with twins. Probably not the best time to bring a puppy into the family. But we were grieving the loss of our Labrador, Shelby, and getting a dog seemed to make sense. We were not thinking clearly.
But we did indeed get a puppy. An adorable, high energy Golden Retriever puppy. Reagan became a part of the family and we never looked back.
He was horribly nippy and mouthy and food obsessed from the get-go. He tormented five-year-old Timothy relentlessly. Reagan clearly decided that Tim was low-man on the totem pole and he was going to at least get above him in the hierarchy. If I turned my back for a second I would hear Timothy screaming for help in the backyard as Reagan had ahold of the edge of his shirt or, worse yet, the crotch of his shorts and wouldn't let go. I hate to think back on how many of Timothy's shirts and shorts were ruined that first summer Reagan came home.
Even after we got past the mouthy puppy behavior, Reagan continued to be a handful.
He flunked Puppy Obedience. We sent him away to Boot Camp and even those seasoned trainers could only shake their heads and say, "Good luck" when they returned him to us.
He would gulp down socks (not chew...not shred....GULP) which resulted in a very expensive surgery during which they removed two socks and a dishtowel from his small intestine. Our children quickly became experts at keeping socks out of reach. We became the household that routinely had piles of socks sitting in windowsills or on the tops of bookshelves.
He would steal any food within reach.
He ate the Christmas lights.
No amount of training ever got him to properly walk on a leash without the use of a prong collar.
He would never come when called unless bribed with food.
He was big and pushy and stubborn and I spent many years wondering if this dog would ever reveal any redeeming qualities.
And then, Annie came along.
Our sweet, dog-loving Annie. Maybe she came into the world pre-programmed to be the dog-lover that she is, or maybe it's because she was born into a house already over-run with one giant, larger-than-life dog. But whatever the reason....Annie loved Reagan.
She just loved him.
She never saw him the way the rest of us did. She had no negative memories, no torn shirts, no lingering resentments over money spent on surgeries, failed training and replacement clothes. She only knew him as the older, more mature dog that he had become and she loved him.
And her pure, unconditional love and acceptance of Reagan, helped the rest of us to love him, too.
Annie's love cast Reagan in an entirely new light.
We were reminded that he didn't have a mean bone in his body, and he never had.
That in the same way Annie loved him, with all his quirks, faults and foibles, he gave us that same love in return. We weren't perfect either. We hadn't always been able to give him all the time and attention he needed. And yet, he still loved us.
And maybe we would have come around in his senior years either way, but aided by the love between the two of them, we are happy to say that we spent the second half of Reagan's life enjoying him and appreciating him in a way that I can't really say we did for the first half.
Reagan was not by any stretch the World's Best Dog. But he was a good dog. He was our dog. And in his final act of graciousness he spent the last two years of his life being an exceptionally good role model and companion for our new dog.
You forget what puppies are like. We didn't realize what we would be asking of Reagan bringing a puppy into his life when he himself was a senior citizen. We had moments of wondering if we had made a terrible mistake.
But I don't worry about that anymore. Reagan helped Rooney to settle into his new home. He taught him to swim. He gave him companionship. And in return, I think Rooney gave Reagan companionship, too. I think he made these last years more interesting and playful. I think it was good. I hope it was good.
And so, we say goodbye.
Goodbye to our faithful friend.
And in saying goodbye, we will remember all that was good about our Reagan.
He was so friendly.
He was tolerant.
He was a champion swimmer.
He never met a meal, a morsel, or a crumb he didn't like.
He was handsome.
He was quiet and unflappable.
He loved us.
He was loved.