It’s Just a Dog…

“It’s just a dog,” my colleague said to me eleven years ago as I lamented about how my new puppy was home in her crate more than I wanted. “It’s not like it’s a baby. It will be fine.”

She was the first, but certainly not the last person to say those words to me over the past decade. She was right. She was just a dog.

Because she is just a dog, she always forgave me when I was running late, when I couldn’t spend as much time together because I had three small babies, when we moved her from the only house she knew.

Because she is just a dog, she loved me at my worst, thought a walk was a gift, and only needed food, a cool place to lay down, and a butt rub to have the best day ever.

Because she is just a dog, she never let me down, never held a grudge, never got mad. She was the perfect companion and the perfect friend — solely because she was just a dog.

Like most couples, my husband and I got our first dog soon after getting married and purchasing a new house. She was a beautiful Shetland sheepdog that looked just like a mini Lassie. She was supposed to be a show dog, so she brought a ‘tude along with her pedigree. We named her Napa after the wine region, and she was sweet, but a little aloof.

Because I thought dog number one was lonely, I begged persuaded my husband to get a second dog and eventually I wore him down. I found another breeder and ended up picking the runt of the litter; a scruffy, little sheltie that crawled right into my arms. She had me at the first wet lick on the nose even though her breath smelled like worms. I brought home Carnie (named after Carneros, another wine region in Sonoma) when she was just 10 and a half weeks old.

Like any good pet mom, I loved both my puppies the same, except one wanted to be loved on her terms, and the other, Carnie, became my shadow. She is the dog that loves you so much she is constantly under your feet; the one who steals the warm spot when my husband got out of bed; the one who opens the door just after you sat down on the toilet and will nudge your arm until you start to pet her. She is the dog who wraps her paws around my neck as any human would do, just to show me how much she loves me.  She is special, as any dog owner would tell you about their own.

It is just this dog, this beautiful creature without a mean bone in her body, who we are saying good-bye to today. And like anyone who has lost a pet, you can imagine how hard it is…not just because of her being a loyal dog, but because of what she represents — a time, a place, a specific point in our journey through life.

Because it was just a dog that lifted my spirits after my dad died of lung cancer, when I felt alone, when I needed somewhere to transfer my love.

It was just a dog that helped me get through years of dealing with infertility treatments, dealing with my depression over it, dealing with broken hope month after month.

It was just a dog that stayed a great pet even when we added three babies to our family in just sixteen months. It was just a dog that would steal biscuits from a high chair and lick the faces of our daughters clean while they squealed with laughter. It was just a dog that let three kids pull her ears and dress her in hats and use her as a pillow. Three kids that are better people for having her in their lives.

I know most people don’t mean harm when they say “it’s just a dog.” But I have to feel these people are missing out on a lot of beautiful things in life, like just another sunset, just another first snow or just another friend.

Because I know my dog is so much more than just. She has been my companion and the one reliable constant in what has become a full, amazing crazy life.

Because being just a dog was exactly what I needed from her.

And I just lost a piece of my heart.

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    • I really do believe I was lucky to find her. She had the sweetest disposition. I am lonely and heartbroken but wouldn’t trade it for the eleven years of joy she provided me and my family. Thanks for reading and sharing.

  1. They are never,” Just a dog.” They become loving family members. I lost my Maggie Sept.12th 2014 after11 years. Love my pets. Sorry for your loss.

    • I’m really sorry for your loss as well. It truly is like losing a piece of yourself. My house is quieter and a little more lonely, but her memory lives everywhere. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  2. I’m so sorry you are saying goodbye…I’m sure she knows how much you love her. And I say “love” not “loved” because the love for an animal, a member of your family, never stops even after they are gone.

    • Thanks so much for the kind words. We really tried to make her last few days as painless and enjoyable as possible, and I feel grateful I got to be there as she left this world. It was my privilege to be her owner.

  3. Beautifully written. Only those if us who had just dogs, know how just selfless and incredible they are. Sorry for your loss and hope your puppy is playing with our Snowball and Pebbles.

    • Thank you so much for reading. Yes, I hope my Carnie finds all the wonderful animals that have gone before her. One of the few things bringing me comfort…

  4. i love love love love love love this. It is so well said. They bring such joy into our lives and ask for so little. Ugh… beautiful.

  5. Whitney, so well written! Our pets bring us so much comfort and unconditional love. I know your pain. So sorry for the loss of your best friend.

  6. Thank you for this post. So incredibly well written. Timely as well, as my husband had to say goodbye to his cat last sunday. To be honest, I had a hard time understanding his loss, as I was still puzzled with it being “just a cat.” Likewise, although there were 2 cats, this one chose him to love so much more. In time, I remember instances where I actually got jealous of how much those two loved each other. Over 15 years you would think I would understand, but since that cat chose to love him so much (and he loved her just as much in return) – I struggled with it. “You’re my wife, it’s different,” he said. When I read your entire entry back and forth, I realized it was that she never punished him on his bad days – and provided him the comfort and companionship that pets provide and now he would miss. We have several pets, but his cat was so special much the way your Carnie was – because of how she didn’t just love. But loved you better. So sorry for your loss. And again thank you so much for putting into words what we’ve been going through.

    • Annie, thanks so much for your comment. I really needed to read something like that this morning. It sounds like your husband and I had a similar experience. Whenever I was feeling bad about myself, my pup always made me feel better, always made me feel like I was doing good. But when you said, “But loved you better.” I realized that yes, that is exactly what she did. She loved me better. Thank you for that.

  7. “Just a dog.” Pssht. I often like my dog more than my kids 😉 I am so sorry for your loss. I recently lost my best old girl, too. Such a clean, sharp pain. Take good care!

  8. Our beloved of 11.5 years, who we rescued when he was 2.5 years was taken from us by the violent way of a coyote attack this past weekend. Went missing on Sunday and found on Monday. He was our first baby, although furry, and a hole has been carved into my heart with his being gone so suddenly. Best wishes to you as you heal for your pup was not anything but a member of your family.