It all started with a really, really good dog.
…as all the great stories do.
For all the major moments (and lots of random small moments) of my 31 years on this planet, I can tell you two things: what I was wearing, and which dogs were around.
On February 26, 2015, I was sitting on our bedroom floor with an 80-pound German Shepherd in my lap, black sweater and dress pants fuzzy with dog hair, feeding him all of the pretzels out of a bag of Munchies. He hadn’t eaten anything in days, but he loved pretzels too much to resist. I took out my phone and pulled up the quality of life quiz that our vet had emailed me. I didn’t need a quiz to know he was dying – I had to carry him out of the bathroom when I got home from work – but I did need something to tell me I wasn’t quitting on him.
The quiz said if he scored 35 points or higher, it wasn’t time yet. I think he scored an 11.
I didn’t need a quiz to know he was dying … but I did need something to tell me I wasn’t quitting on him.
So we sat there sharing our Munchies, him struggling to chew his pretzel but refusing to give up and me trying not to think weird, morbid things like “this is the last Dorito I’ll ever eat while he’s alive.” I called my parents to let them say goodbye, holding the phone right up next to his big fuzzy bat ears and trying to memorize his face while mom told him he was a good boy and dad tried not to cry. Then I called Pat, my then-boyfriend-now-husband, and told him he had to come home from work, but he had to stop at the craft store first. He asked me, very delicately, if it was the right time for errands, but I needed an ink pad and I needed it immediately if not sooner.
Being a special kind of perfectionist control freak, it stands out to me that I didn’t do a practice run on shitty paper first. I rubbed Indy’s foot in the ink and pressed it down on the paper, and it was perfect. Then Pat picked him up and carried my heart straight out of my body, down three flights of stairs to our car, and then from our car to the blanket spread out on the floor at the vet’s office.
That print is the one thing I’d save if our house was on fire. After, you know, the dogs. And Pat. (It’s also the paw print you see all over this site.) Indy was never just my dog. He was my security blanket when I moved three states away to start over as the new kid halfway through college; my copilot on every eight-hour drive home; my date to my first campus bbq when I was too shy to show up totally alone. He was my personal heater when we lost power in the middle of an ice storm, my sleepover buddy in sketchy hotels, my questionably effective security guard when some guy tried to break into my apartment in the middle of the night. He was my constant during six and a half years in my life when everything else changed.
In those moments just before he was gone, when I knew the end was minutes away instead of years away, I panicked. I didn’t know how to do hard, scary things without him. I knew, objectively, that he was tired and in pain and that asking him to keep going was selfish; it turns out you can know something objectively and still objectively want to burn the world to the ground to stop it from happening.
Every day, thousands of dogs across the country are sitting in shelters waiting to be somebody’s Indy.
For awhile, I was afraid that I’d forget how disproportionately massive his ears were, or his derpy bark when he was feeling sassy and wanted snacks, or how much he loved his blue squeaky ball and the movie The Water Horse. It’s comforting to me that writing about him this many years later, I’m still crying like a baby. He’s as much a part of me right now as the day he barfed all over the car on our way home from the shelter and the day he closed his eyes for the last time. I couldn’t forget him if I tried.
Why am I telling you this? Every day, thousands of dogs across the country are sitting in shelters waiting to be somebody’s Indy. I can’t ever get him back, but I can find ways to give other dogs their shot at pretzels and blue squeaky balls and someone who cries over them years after they’re gone. To The Rescues is how I celebrate the impact that our four-legged furkids have on our lives, and make an impact in the lives of homeless pets. I hope whatever you choose makes you laugh, makes you remember, and makes you seek out other ways to put your time + your money where your heart is.
I hope it makes you feel like the person your dog thinks you are.