She looked so helpless when we first saw her - resting on the ground near the overflowing garbage dumpsters.
She was clearly hungry and just as obviously pregnant.
There’s a little voice of caution inside my head that sometimes attempts to speak despite being regularly ignored.
You have a baby who still doesn’t sleep through the night, a crazy work schedule and you just bought a new house. You don’t need to be taking on any additional responsibilities.
I had pretty much made up my mind that she was coming home with us, but it didn’t really matter what I thought anyway. My wife Jamie had already jumped out of the truck and was loving on the shy little dog with the sad eyes. Those eyes would never seem sad again.
“Her name is DeDe,” Jamie said as she loaded her in the front seat of the truck with us, and that’s really all that had to be said. Our family had been extended.
A good dog is one of the greatest gifts in life, and somehow we just knew that this was going to be a great one.
DeDe quickly adjusted to life at our home. Despite the fact that she was malnourished and had somehow eaten rat poison before we found her, she ended up having healthy puppies. We were able to find good homes for all of them.
I think DeDe appreciated how good she had it at our home because I don’t think she ever left our yard over the next decade unless she was following the kids while they were exploring in the woods.
She turned out to be perfect for our young son James. He climbed all over her, and she loved every minute of it. The same was true when Elsie and Jase came along.
It seemed like she was forever young when playing with our children, but of course that’s not how it really goes. The relatively short lifespan of a dog compared to our own is one of the harshest of many realities we are forced to accept in this world.
After a decade with us, DeDe was slowing down. The naps in the sunshine always seemed to be a little longer, and eventually the dog that never wanted to come inside would sometimes sleep through the night at the foot of one of our children’s beds.
When the weather was cool, we’d sometimes catch a glimpse of the younger dog that once raced around our yard protecting us from squirrels, rabbits and other potential threats, but most of the time it was clear that time was catching up with our dear friend. The only frequent exception was when the kids wanted to play. She always seemed to find the strength and energy to keep up with them.
There was a spot on the edge of the woods by our yard where DeDe often liked to sleep.
I buried DeDe in that spot in the middle of the night this week after she died in my arms right after each of our children told her that they loved her.
Saying goodbye to DeDe was just as hard for my family as it would have been to lose a human family member. Our kids don’t remember life without DeDe, and Jamie always had a special place in her heart for the dog she rescued so many years ago.
Even though it was after midnight when my oldest son James and I had finally given DeDe a proper burial, my two younger children were still up when the work was done.
As we held hands around the grave, the kids took turns praying and thanking God for giving them such a wonderful dog.
In that moment I wept for the first time in a long time.
There were, of course, tears for my beloved dog, but also for the realization that my children - especially the youngest two - were probably comprehending for the first time that there is often great pain associated with love. If you live long enough, you are going to experience the sorrow that comes with losing someone you love. Even if you’re totally confident that you will see them again, it feels like having to swallow a tall glass of poison.
But as we walked back to the house I thought of their prayers and felt their hands clinging to mine, and I realized that my children also comprehended that love is more than worth every second of any bitter sorrows that may come.
I hope they grow to understand that love is not just the most important thing in this life - it’s the only thing that really matters.