When I was about 4 or 5 years old, a dog appeared in my life. All I remember of this dog was that it might have been black, it might have been big and it definitely chewed a chunk of my parents' orange couch off. If I remember correctly we were taking care of the pup for a family friend, but the incident with the orange couch swiftly ended that dog's time with us.
I tell this story because it quite possibly was the first time I became obsessed with owning dogs. At the time we'd had a cat for a while and I loved cats. But a few days (maybe even weeks) with a puppy brought out the dog lover in me.
Over the years we got a new kitten, a couple of fish and a cockatiel, but my pleas for a dog went unanswered.
But, when I was about 8 years old, we went to visit a litter of brittany spaniels. The wriggling mass of reddish-brown and white fur might have been the cutest thing I'd ever witnessed in my relatively short life. But it was one in particular, the apparent "runt" of the litter, who stole my heart (and the hearts of my mom and sister).
We took that little girl home and named her Kelly (after the uninspired name "Brittany" was tossed about). To this day I have no idea why we dubbed her that, but I generally called her Kellybelly. 8-year-old's will do that.
Two years later, my frustrated stepdad decided to get a new dog because Kelly was too "bullheaded" to be the bird dog he had wanted. That year Kelly was exiled from the most of the family's hearts. She was no competition for a younger, more amusing puppy. Yet, when everyone was drawn to Misty, our new German shorthaired pointer (who, incidentally, turned out to be even more unsuited for hunting), I would join Kelly on her bed. She would put her head on my leg and I would tell her about my day. That's when she became my dog.
Over the years we protected each other and I could always count on her to comfort me when it was called for. She would be there to keep my toes warm during the freezing winter nights in the mountains. When I had fights with my step-dad, I would usually escape to the side porch, where she would come running and shove her head under my arm in her version of a hug. She never failed to make me smile.
These memories are what I hold onto now that I am forced to say good-bye to my best friend. Home is not really "home" without her.
But the cycle continues. The night after Kelly was put down, I crawled into my own bed and promptly started to cry. Miyagi has generally slept on the floor because of my husband's allergies, but when allowed on the bed, he usually prefers to sleep on Travis' side and doesn't want to be touched. If you pet him he'll move farther away and if your feet are touching him, he'll often chuff at you and jump off in disgust. But that night, Miyagi got up and walked over to my side of the bed and stared at me. Eventually, he put his head on the bed next to my face and licked some tears off my nose. Then crawled in to bed next to me and I wrapped my arm around him, just like I had done so many times with Kelly. Instead of protesting, he snuggled closer. I will never forget Kelly. But it hurts slightly less knowing that I can build a similar relationship with Miyagi.