To the dog who replaced my mastiff
"There is no joy since you left." That was the phrase I wrote after Henry, our mastiff, died in February. A few weeks later, you came along.
You came into my life at a dark, dark, dark time. You came into our house when we were still cloaked in grief from the loss of our beloved mastiff. He was more than a dog to me. He was my best friend, my world. My cheeks were still tear-stained when your crazy puppy self blasted into our house. I wanted the sadness to stop. I wanted to feel hope again. I know now that it probably wasn't the best idea to get a crazy puppy in the middle of winter while I was still drowning in sadness. But you came into our lives all the same, ready or not (and most days, I realized not).
I know now it wasn't really fair to you in those early days. You had crazy big pawprints to fill that you really had no business filling....and we should have never expected that of you. I was still mourning the friendship I had with Henry, one that I'd built over seven years. You came in with your puppy breath and wild energy...and you never could be him. Try and try as you might, you couldn't fill those pawprints.
At first, if I'm honest, that was really hard. Henry loved the snow and cupcakes. You were terrified to go outside to pee if there was a single snowflake or a puff of wind, and you didn't really like any food except canine carry outs. Henry loved to cuddle; you liked to run like wild, jumping all over and gnawing on me with those razor-like puppy teeth. Henry was a social butterfly, and you were afraid of your own shadow. Henry would lay his big, heavy head in my lap when I was sad. You would pee on the floor or chew on my shirt or get into a million things that seemed to make everything harder.
You were nothing alike. I realized that very quickly. You didn't really notice though. You probably wondered who the heck that Henry guy was I always mentioned.
As time went and spring broke, I still cried. A lot. I still grieved for Henry. In truth, even now, I still do. However, slowly, I started to realize the reality I should have known from the beginning: You weren't Henry. You never would be. And those pawprints I wanted you to fill...you would make your very own because you were your own dog.
Even though the weight of grief was heavy, you didn't mind. Even when I was crying and staring at his picture, you were having a blast with your new toy or tossing your rope in the air or chewing on the throw pillow. You made me laugh in spite of the sadness. You lifted the darkness from our house, and the rooms no longer echoed with the silence of our missing dog because there was a new energy there. One who liked to run on the sofa and stare at the fan. One who loved to dash around with his giant frisbee and roll on his back with his treats. One who loved sleeping on pillows and stealing socks and playing in the empty tub.
And even though some days I wanted nothing more than to sleep off the grief, you didn't let me. No longer could I wallow on the couch all day because you needed exercise, attention, and love. And so, I started lacing my shoes up at five a.m. to walk you. I had to be home from work to get you out. I had someone happy to see me when I got home, and someone who didn't care how many mistakes I made that day or how much I messed up. On days when it all felt hard, you were there, throwing your toy or being so damn happy over everything.
There were still frustrating days, of course. The day you ate your $65 Serta bed I just bought you, and all of the days you refused to listen. All of the cat chasing, pooping on walks, and middle of the night barking. The $35 you chewed up and your insane antics at dog school. You were exhausting from that very first week. You still are. You have pulled more stunts than Henry could've ever dreamed of in his lifetime.
Nonetheless, as I sit here with you now, eight months into our friendship, I can appreciate how special you are. You did the impossible. You walked into our lives in the middle of the darkest darkness I've ever experienced...and you brought us joy, laughter, and light. You didn't worry about filling Henry's shoes...because you brought your own pair. You reminded us that you could never replace our first beloved dog, nor should you. You reminded us that you would make your own path, your own memories. You would carve out your own bond with us that is wild and messy and sometimes a bit annoying....but filled with joy all the same.
So to the dog who replaced our mastiff: You could never replace him. And you don't have to. But you taught me in these past months that loss doesn't go away--still, with the right bond, it can become bearable.
Most of all, you taught me that every dog has its purpose, its reason, and above all, unconditional love.
When Henry died, there was no joy. I thought it would stay that way forever. Thank you, Edmund, for leading me through the grief of Henry and teaching me that yes, there would be joy again....crazy, energetic, expensive, exhausting, but beautiful all the same... joy.
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USA TODAY Bestselling Thriller author with Avon Books (HarperCollins), The Widow Next Door, The Diary of a Serial Killer's Daughter, and other creepy thriller books