On Borrowed Time With Our Dogs

I always had a feeling I was on borrowed time with Har.

Like whoever loaned him to me would want him back much too soon, I could just feel it from day one. He was too good.

And just like I feared, that day came last Saturday afternoon. I think that whoever sent him to us, peeked in on his last few days and thought, oh no this is not the Harlow we know. We have to get him back to his goofy old self asap. And so they took him from us, right from our arms on a day that was much too bright and sunny for such a dark moment. Back to where he started as a young energetic, floppy eared pup.

And even though I am heartbroken and slightly angry at times that I no longer have my boy, I get it. I’d want him back too. So I guess I have to (begrudgingly) accept it. However I need you to know a few things about my boy first. He’s been with me every single day for the past ten (almost eleven) years and I can’t imagine sending him away without a list of things you have to do/know about him. He’s not just any dog, he’s my Har.

First of all, he always needs to be under a blanket, even in the dead of summer. Don’t worry, he’ll remind you by nosing whichever blanket is closet to you (or him) his way of saying, cover me now, please. And he also really likes pillows, ideally one he shares with you. With his hot breath and old man like snoring, right up in your face. It sounds weird, okay it is weird, but I promise you you’ll grow to love it. And when he wants to move in the night that means you better move, because it’s his bed and you’re just allowed in it.

I said he was good, but perfect? No. He has his… quirks. Things others might not appreciate, but you have to. There’s just no way around it. For example if you’re not always petting him, he will slap his paw on your arm until you remember you have to always be petting him. And don’t even think about entering the house with out a big, “HI HAR, WE’RE HOME!” greeting. Same with leaving the house, you have to say, “I love you, we’ll be right back, Har,” every single time, whether you’re going away for five minutes of five days.

And Har isn’t a counter surfer, but he’s had his moments. Like the time Chris and I had a few too many libations at Kirkwood in Chicago, came home and ordered a bunch of pizza, drenched some slices in ranch dressing, and then promptly fell asleep only to be woken up by Har’s face an inch away from mine, empty ranch bottle in mouth. I ran to the kitchen to find that he had eaten every slice we left out (our fault, I know) and then apparently wanted more ranch to wash them down.

There was also the time he broke into the Whole Foods grocery bags (Chris splurged and bought fancy groceries because it was Valentine’s Day) and he ate a block of cheese and hid chunks of French bread all over our tiny apartment. In a couch cushion, the back of our closet, behind the toilet. We found bread for weeks, pieces he was saving for a rainy day, I guess.

But when you’re feeling blue, well that’s when he really shines. He saw me through more than a few job losses. He’d lay with me on the couch until he knew it was time to stop sulking and then he’d politely go to the door and tell me, okay let’s get outside now. We need to walk. And so we’d go on a walk. And then maybe another. And another. And sure enough Har had worked his magic and I was back to my old self.

But then there were the times when he knew a walk wouldn’t help, when simply his presence was what I needed. When I had a miscarriage and he laid with me all day, his head on my pillow. I remember waking up after a long post D&C surgery nap and he was wide awake, just there with me. I told him to go outside, Chris would take him on a walk. But he didn’t budge. His job was to be with me.

The next day him and I went to the dog park and just sat on a bench with the sunshine on our face, tears streaming down beneath my dark sunglasses. We must have looked like a couple of sad sacks to anyone passing the Pulaski dog park that day, the two of us just sitting on that bench, not moving an inch. It’s weird because it was such a painful moment then, but these past few days I keep going back to it. Imagining me and Har on a bench, the warm sunshine streaming down on us, just being.

We spent so much time together, Har and I. So so much. And you know what? I cherished it. I just knew I had it good.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough. And he’ll be needing a walk by now wherever he is, because I trust he’s got his old energy back. Please remember when you cross busy streets he likes to trot a little ahead and look back up at you, I used to think he did this for himself, but now I know he was always just one step ahead making sure I was okay.

Even with his new sister, Birdie. I know it’s nice to think he held on just to meet her, but I think deep down he mostly held on for me and Chris. To see us as parents. To make sure we’d be okay with this new little baby, without him around. And once he realized we were, well, he moved on.

I hope to see him at a dog park again someday. Not on the ground, but sitting on the bench where the humans sit, of course.

Until then, would you tell him that we really miss him? Whoever you are that has him now. And tell him we love him and that we’ll be right back.

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