When my husband committed suicide, I withdrew from the world. Part of my trauma was because of his death. The other part was because he’d chosen to do it in front of me by putting a gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger. I couldn’t become a hermit, however, because I had two children who needed me. When I lost my oldest son I wanted to sit in a corner and rock back and forth with my arms over my head. I couldn’t do that because my youngest son needed me. Then my mother died, suddenly and unexpectedly. Then my father the same way. Then my grandmother, then my brother. All quick. All unexpected. All within a short time.
It was during this time that I realized how important my dog was. I can still remember sitting on the couch with my terrier, Lawana, on my lap, telling her about everything. I would pet her and cry and feel a little comforted. Unfortunately, I came home one day to find that Lawana had died.
A few years later I got another pet. Lovey came into my life. Lovey was a Sheltie that was only with me for a short time before succumbing to lymphoma. I thought sitting there holding her as she died was the hardest thing I’d done in a while.
Little did I know.
I purchased this house and moved in. Four years later I realized how lonely I was. I told myself that I needed a pet. Let’s get another Sheltie. So off I went to find a Sheltie puppy. I couldn’t find one. But I did find a breeder not too far away who had a litter of Shelties that were a year and a half old. They were all merles except for one tri-color.
“He’s the most submissive of his litter,” the breeder said when introducing me to Flash. Well, he was until I got him home and he figured out it was HIS place. Then he became opinionated, stubborn, protective, and my friend. He insisted on saving me from UPS people and leaves, birds and other dogs, squirrels and butterflies. He stood watch at the window to ensure no burglars were approaching the front door and barked like a madman if anyone did come close. He lunged. He showed impressive long teeth. He was insistent about being my bodyguard.
Flash and I didn’t bond right away. I think it was because I was afraid to love him. Did I really want to open myself up and become vulnerable again? Nope. I was developing really good emotional calluses and I needed them. I thought that getting another dog was a stupid decision on my part. I actually tried to take Flash back, but that didn’t work. I kept myself aloof for the first few months. But something strange happened. Flash charmed me. I slowly allowed myself to feel affection for him, to laugh at his antics, to teach him how to accept affection from me. My kissing you on the forehead isn’t going to hurt, silly. Nor is my ruffling your tail. I felt my heart open, bit by bit.
We were two creatures who desperately wanted love but didn’t know quite how to give or receive it.
Cesar Millan once said that you don’t get the dog you want; you get the dog you need. I believe that now.
I learned to love Flash and Flash learned to love me. I gave him several names: Sir Barksalot, the Flashster, Mouth of the South, Mr. Prancy Pants, Flash the Wonder Pooch, Flashy Dashy. He even responded to Sweetie and Fluffy Butt.
I rolled my eyes in exasperation when he threw himself at the window. When he came to me at 5:00 and fussed because I was still working, I left my desk to play lure pole with him. I brushed his teeth every day in a routine that we both anticipated. I had a list of doggy-friendly places and we often drove there. Flash had a special setup in the backseat of my car and loved barking at pedestrians.
He listened to me dictate my first drafts and heard the computer read the final manuscripts aloud. Not once did he offer a scathing criticism or critique. He learned about 100 words and responded to each one. I taught him a series of tricks and he did them all – for kibble. For years he exercised beside me, doing 30 minutes on the treadmill twice a day. He was my exercise buddy and had his own treadmill.
We had spa day every three days and Flash jumped up on his own grooming bench to be treated like a prince. He got the whole treatment, from ears to tail. Oh, and a full massage while we were at it.
Whenever I got too affectionate, he would back off and do this whole body shake that started at his nose and ended with a shiver of his tail. He did a lot of that this week.
He had two favorite spots in the house while I was working: in the master bathroom doorway and next to the front door. From there he could monitor my movements – was I heading toward the kitchen? – and those of any approaching burglars.
He did this funny little dance whenever he had to go outside. It was accompanied by a singular sound that he only used when he needed to use the facilities.
When he was hungry he’d come and sit beside me and flick his tongue out a few times. That was Flash-speak for “I’m starving. Please feed me.”
We went through the wars together: his spaying, the removal of the cyst on his neck, the lipomas on his bottom and leg, the mast cell tumor (twice), the abscesses on his leg (three times), his abscessed tooth, arthritis, and this last thing, this damnably cruel, aggressive cancer.
I finally understood what his breeder meant about being submissive. During all the tests Flash had done, he didn’t need to be sedated. He did what everyone wanted him to do and was very calm. He also never minded wearing his t-shirt.
From the moment I first brought him home seven years ago I rearranged my life and my schedule to accommodate him and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Flash went through hell since May 30th and I would have done anything to have spared him that. I’ve gone through hell since May 30th and I’d do it again for him.
I have been blessed beyond measure by Flash’s presence in my life these past seven years. He reminded me – every day – that love can sometimes be painful, but that it’s always worth it.
I wish I could have fixed him like I promised.
Rest in peace, my darling Flash. Thank you for loving me. I love you, too, and I will miss you forever.