One of my friends has had to say goodbye of two of her elderly dogs over the past few months, and it’s heartbreaking for me to see her go through this – I ache for her and the losses she has had to deal with amid school finals and life’s never-ending messes. I wish I could make her dogs live forever, or at the very least I wish I could spread out the losses. Many people here at seminary think I’m not a pet-friendly person, but that’s not the case. I love pets dearly – it’s saying goodbye to them that I don’t like, and to guard my heart I put up my stalwart stance.

My family picked up our dog Sunshine when I was four or five and she was a constant in my life over the next decade. She would play with my brother and I in the backyard, stealing our baseballs and chasing our snowballs. She went with us on our family vacations to the Sand Dunes, Blue Mesa, Grand Mesa, and my grandparents’ property in Coaldale. She moved with us to three different homes, was terrified of fireworks, and was always ready to greet me at the door when I came home.

Sunshine

As the years went on, her muscle mass deteriorated and had facial paralysis – we eventually had to put her to sleep. It was a decision my parents made, though they asked me if I wanted to skip school and go with them, but I couldn’t do it. I remember that day vividly as I walked to school and my parents drove to the vet – my mind was cycling through all the memories I had of Sunshine and me playing together.

We picked up Josie from the shelter in Buena Vista a few years later, and while she wasn’t a replacement, she lived up to the paw prints left by Sunshine. She was a pit bull/ rottweiler/ something-else mix, and while she looked intimidating, she was one of the sweetest dogs I have ever come across. She was a little goofy, a little ditzy, but full of love and affection. She performed zoomies with perfection, was intimidated by statues, would wiggle her tail-less butt with excitement, and rarely would she bark out of fear or anger.

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I left for college and she was ready to greet me each time I returned home. When I was depressed and contemplating suicide, Josie was there by my side. When I was watching the terrorist attacks in 2001 and getting ready to fearfully travel overseas, Josie was there with me as I packed my bags. In all the chaos of my early 20-somethings, she was by my side. While I was living in Greeley, my mom called to tell me that Josie had gone to sleep the night before but never woke up. I was just as devastated as I was with Sunshine, and I grieved just as fiercely.

The truth is, I love pets. I loved all the pets that I’ve had in my life: dogs, cats, birds, a ferret, hamsters, and a myriad of goldfish. I loved all the pets that my brother has had: the big dogs, the herding dogs, the little dogs; the goats, cows, and horses. I love all the pets that are around me currently: Scooter, Muji, Mylo, Cooper (x2), Winnie, Blanche, Loveern, Shiloh, Potter, Radar, Kodac, Migelito and all the other dogs and cats, squirrels, frogs, and birds who reside on campus.

I love pets – it’s the end of their lives that I don’t like and what I guard against. I don’t like the hurt and pain and emptiness that comes when they leave. I don’t like the tears and crying that I end up doing because they’re gone. I don’t like missing my best friends and constant companions for years after they’ve left. I don’t like losing pets, which is why I guard my heart against the inevitable ache.

Thank God for pets: for their love and compassion towards us when we are so undeserving of it. Thank God for pets: for always giving us a moment of joy, a time of happiness, an ear of understanding. Thank God for pets: the better being in the relationship time and time again.

Thank God for pets.

much love. sheth.

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