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I Miss the One Who Thought of Me as Just Another B@!ch!

So, it happened. It was something I had been dreading for some time, and I could not have anticipated more than twelve years ago, when she joined our family, that it would have rocked my world this much. Our first family dog, Koko, passed over the rainbow bridge to dog heaven one week ago today, and I am sad to say the least.

More than 12 years ago, we moved to a new state for my job. That meant Number 1 would be starting fifth grade in a new state and leaving her friends that she had known since Kindergarten. At the time she was devastated and her mood impacted the entire family. Finally, after the fifth night of crying herself to sleep, I asked her what it would take for her to see this in a new way, and she promptly replied with the answer I feared… “a dog.”

This should not have been a surprise as she had been lobbying for some time to get a dog. The cat we had was just a house fixture to her, as we got him pre-kid days. Seeing her smile through the tears -- as she thought about the canine companion -- I quickly said yes, and she made me shake on it. The deal was done. There was no turning back.

We told the kids that once we got settled in the house, a dog would join the family. My husband and Number 1 shared pictures, read ads, visited the pet store and the humane society and more. The two argued over dog size. Number 1 wanted a lapdog to carry with her, but my husband called those cat dogs. (By the way Dog #3 is a cat dog – bichon poo, added years later as well as Dog #2 a Cockapoo.) The only ask I made is for a non-shedding breed.

They finally settled on a Labradoodle. About four months after we moved into the new home, we brought home Koko Puff, a furry, reddish brown Labradoodle who was touched, hugged and coddled by four little people and two adults. She sat on command almost from day one, and my husband who was at home became the alpha dog and trained her. First it was potty training; Koko was attached to my husband’s belt loop via a leash and carabineer clip. We attended dog-training classes as a family and she came with us to soccer games and the like.

She quickly adapted to family life. She spoiled us and we her. I was the dog walker for sure, but as I write in the book, ZagZig Parenting, I was definitely not Alpha #2. As a matter of fact, I ranked last in terms family members she listened to. We all concurred that she thought of me as another female dog companion, and we were not even sure on our outside ventures who walked whom – but that is an entirely different story.

As is typical, the kids started losing interest and they adjusted to the new environment and met friends. Koko wanted to play when they were ready to rest after school. She wanted to eat when they just sat down on the couch, and more.

I often worked late hours and over time so the family got so used to me not being there, that they lost interest when I entered the door, but Koko held steady, wagging her tail. You can bet that as soon at she heard the garage door open, she ran to the door and stayed by my side until I petted her head and greeted her as enthusiastically as she greeted me.

Dogs are the epitome of unconditional love. On a bad emotional day, she nudged me for love. She put her paw on top of mine when she wanted to me to pet her. (Yes, dog trainers, I failed. I know it is not good that she controlled me.) When I said who wants to go for a walk, and my humans all grunted, Koko perked her ears, cocked her head to the side and look at me as if to say, “You bet, let’s do this thing.”

During some rough human teenage years – and we had a few with four kids just six years apart in total – Koko was my favorite family member. (Don’t tell the kids that. They each think they are my favorite, and I like to keep it that way; after all no parent has a favorite – that we will admit to in public -- right? Just kidding.) She, even into her dog geriatric years, avoided slamming doors, rolling eyes and talking back.

She did give me great, deep eye contact, as if to say, I know you, I know how you are feeling and I am here for you. It was a comfort. On some days when I wasn’t quite up to it all, she just sat by my side or followed me around the house room by room, as if to make sure I would not get lost any more than I was at the moment. She was a companion.

People say the family dynamic changes with the passing of a pet and I think we are experiencing it now. The other two dogs seem to have lost their leader who barked once when it was time to go out, barked multiple times when we forgot to feed them and kept the other two dogs in line when they did not get along as much as she wanted them to.

My loyal friend is gone. I hope she is running again in green pastures and smiling from ear to ear. My heart still aches, but the vision of her as an active pup again makes me smile, from ear to ear.

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