Saturday, October 16, 2010

My Miguel: One Crazy Chihuahua;15 Crazy Years

Life is a series of dogs, or so it was once said by the late, great comedian, George Carlin. And it’s so true! Dogs are a unique expression of God’s handiwork for the sheer fact that they absorb our emotions. Whatever we are going through in our lives, these furry companions are empathetic, sympathetic (sometimes simply copasetic) to our plights as humans. For our Crazy little family, no one was a bigger cheerleader, comforter, confident and Yoda-esque mascot for FIFTEEN YEARS, than our faithful friend, Miguel. He’s seen our story from the very beginning, and a little over a month ago we had to say good-bye. I thought it would be only fitting to dedicate this post to our buddy, Migs, who gave 105 dog-years to master the art of patience with this family, and all that’s come with it.

He wasn’t one for manners when we met. In fact, he was sitting in his food bowl, staring out at us from his mall pet store cage because his teeny paws were too little to allow him to stand on the wire floor without falling through the grate. From his cage, he looked out and saw a couple of dorky 23-year olds who were already in love. Both with each other…and with him. Seeing this bug-eyed, tawny little muchacho in the pet store window did something in both of our hearts. We laughed about him. Made voices for him (don’t ask). And once I held the tawny tuft of fur with the Mexican accent in my arms…game over. We had a dog. WE had a puppy. We were engaged to be married at the time, and yet somehow that single act of buying a pet together bonded the Hubster and I in such a way, we knew we’d be together forever. We had a bug-eyed baby, and his name was Miguel.

Miguel was with us for our wedding (we toyed with the idea of having him be ring bearer (did not go over well….:)) And he was with us for the crazy first years of marriage, a move out west...

...and loved becoming an official Mountain Chihuahua. As our family changed, he changed too. From a strapping young dog with a shiny coat of blonde hair… a middle-aged dog who embraced the whole stay-at-home-mom look, complete with bags under his eyes, gray hairs, and extra rolls hanging off his little dog frame.

He weathered 8 homes in 15 years, and by the time Youngest Princess came along, he was a solid senior citizen. His nickname became Gramps or Pappy, as the Hubster and I adjusted to life with a new baby AND a geriatric dog.

This past year has been the hardest for our Crazy family, as we sorta knew his time was running out. Doggie senility was setting in. He’d get confused in the house. Became deaf, blind and rarely left his bed in the sun. As I’ve joked before, he pretty much became furniture that breathed. The news hit home hard though, after one of his last trips to the vet, upon discovering our little old dog had kidney disease, and chances for recovery with his age didn’t look promising. We knew Miguel was tired. We knew he was ready to go be with Jesus. But we weren’t ready. No one ever is.

We knew what we had to do and were determined to walk through this grieving process as a family Being Real, Being Love and Believing that God just has to have a special place picked out for these animals that seem to hold our hands through life. With Miggle’s life coming to the final chapter, we decided to have a Miguelebration the very next day. The day was filled with more hugs and holding than the old man could handle, special couch privileges, and a final ride in the wagon to his favorite park.

He couldn’t walk very well at that point, but he enjoyed the ride, and simply sniffing around checking his pee-mail a final time, and lounging in shade of his favorite tree. That night when the Hubster got home, we all had ice cream –special doggie ice cream for the Migs—and all lay together as a family in the backyard hammock with our loyal buddy, sharing our favorite Miguel stories. We stayed there up to the minute when we had to make the dreaded trip to the vet to say farewell.

The Hubster and I debated on how to handle the situation with our children. We toyed with the idea of lying, saying that we were going to take him to the vet to see what the vet could do to help him. …But I know my daughters too well. I knew if we did that, we’d only build up false hope in them. And that they’d be praying nonstop for their doggie to be healed—which was only going to end in them being bitter at God and wondering why God wouldn’t answer their prayers. We had to be Real. And we were. We all grieved openly and honestly. We let our children know it was OK to be sad. It was healthy to cry over losing a loved one. And it was good. Yes, that whole night was horrible in its substance…but at the same time, it was healing and comforting and good.

We all rode together to the vet that night, as a Family. Because that’s what we are. We all gave Miguel kisses and hugs and told him what a good dog he had been. The Hubster played the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” on the way to the vet (which, by the way, has ruined the song for me now. Thanks, Babe!), but it did help us dwell on the thoughts of our old, arthritic pooch being unleashed to run and roam as he did as a pup, perhaps with some of his doggie friends who have gone before him. Now I do know that none of this is Biblical. But I just have to believe that for as closely connected to the human spirit that dogs are, God will have a place that is just as good and lovely. The children clung to that hope, and laughed about the way Miguel would probably be so excited to see their grandparents’ deceased dog, and hoped maybe my Grandma who passed away last December might watch after him. The Hubster and I simply laughed over the thought of Miguel being so excited to…well…be “un-neutered”—(is that PG enough? lol!) :) Happy thoughts. Laughter. Tears. They all were a part of the grieving process. And I think it was all good.

Already the girls are planning our family’s next dog. For them it will be their first puppy. And I think I’m starting to look forward to that too. Because I know there will never ever be another Miguel. Just like none of you will have a dog ever exactly like the one you have now. Each dog is as unique as the people he/she belongs to. But if life is a series of dogs, Miguel was an opening chapter. He watched a young couple grow up … a little bit; got to stick around to see their children; and got to be put to rest with a peace that we’re all gonna be OK. He helped us through what he needed to help us through. And now…well, it’s time for a new chapter in life. And soon it will be time for a new dog.

We love you, and miss you, Miguel.
Shine on, Buddy.

P.S. So as not to end this post on a totally depressing note, update! As I said, I wrote this post nearly 2 months ago, and it has taken me this long to post it as it makes me cry every time. HOWEVER--A new chapter has opened in our crazy family. It's a chapter that sort of found us at the perfect time. There is a new joy in our household...and her name is Lady.

Lady joined our family 2 weeks ago. Story to follow! :)