Updated: Mar 11, 2021
I will always remember when I first met my dog Leonard. I was 26 years old and had just bought my first house about a month prior. I planned on getting a dog at some point, but not so soon after being out on my own for the first time. I'd been looking at dogs on the humane society website and saw one I wanted to go meet at the humane society in Golden Valley, MN.
My parents and I walked along the kennels looking for the dog I came for, and along the way there was a little shaggy dog about halfway back in the kennel that looked scared. I'm always a sucker for the dogs that look scared, so we took him out for a visit. His name was "Norman."
I sat on the floor on the visiting room trying to get "Norman" to take a treat for me. He was very hesitant to come close. We put him back and visited with the dog I originally set out to see. I didn't really connect with her, so we put her back and walked along the kennels again. This time when I passed "Norman's" kennel, he approached the door wagging his tail as if he recognized me, so I figured we should take him out for another visit.
I sat on the floor again, and this time he took treats from my hand. He seemed happy to see me. I remember him putting his feet up on my crossed legs. He put his nose up to my nose and licked it. That was it. He was coming home with me. And I changed his name to Leonard.
I always felt Leonard picked me, not the other way around. He's been very special to me. All of my dogs have been, but Leonard and I, we've been through a lot together. He was the first dog that was my responsibility to take care of, and mine only. I got him shortly after purchasing my home. He was there for me during the ups and downs of dating. My husband is the only man he appeared to like upon meeting him. Leonard was in our wedding. He came climbing with us, hiking with us, and up to our property camping with us. As I've grown, he's been there and grown with me. He's my little adventure pup. My protector.
I'm writing this because we recently found out that Leonard has a tumor in his small intestine. It was a huge blow to me to receive that news. Leonard has other health issues, but I thought we still had another year or two with him at least. Unfortunately there's not a whole lot we can do to save Leonard, and are just doing what we can to keep him comfortable right now (and spoiling the crap out of him!). He has good days and bad days. He will hopefully be around another month or two, maybe even three, but if he responds well to his new meds, he could even be around another six months.
The hardest part of all of this is not knowing. Not knowing how much time is left. Not really knowing how much pain he's in. Every time he has a "bad" day I question, "Is this it?" This has all been happening so fast. I remember when I received the news while I was at work, I struggled to keep it together. I ended up leaving early and collapsing when I got inside my house. Within four days I went from pretty much grieving Leonard, to being angry, and then in denial. It doesn't seem fair, to me or to him. It's so hard to see him not himself, and especially hard to see him on his worst days. Dogs love us unconditionally and are always there by our side. They are a huge presence in our homes and lives. Saying goodbye (or in this case, preparing to say goodbye soon) to my dog(s) is the hardest thing I've ever had to do.
My dogs are literally like my children. They are so much a part of my family, and that's why I always encourage people to include their dogs in their photo sessions. Your life simply wouldn't be the same without them.
If you have a dog, please go give them a biiiiig hug and kiss right now, because you just never know how much time you have left with them (and it's already never enough).