by Connie Clarkson
My dad surprised my mom with a puppy when my mom was pregnant with my second older brother, Robin. Then I was born, Hondo was a golden labrador retriever. Hondo was like many other dogs, he barked at the mailman, ran all over the house, peed in places he wasn’t supposed to, and sneaked food off the table. I have very fond memories of cuddling and playing in our backyard back in LA. Now that I look back at the stage in my life, I was young and ignorant, like most kids my age. I didn’t have a care in the world. The worries I had were if I was going to turn in my math homework on time or if I was going to miss an episode of Hannah Montana. As time went on, and my brothers and I got older, so did Hondo, though sadly he didn’t pass of old age, rather he died of complications with something he accidentally ate. Hondo’s death was a symbol of me leaving an old part of my life and going onto another, this stage would open my eyes to the world to a broader perspective, though not entirely to the struggles that were out there.
Flash forward through the years to 2006 to 2018 we got a new dog, Josie. Josie was a petite, “salt and pepper” Portuguese Water Dog. Ever since Josie, we’ve always had that breed because they are hypoallergenic and have calm temperaments, they are bred to love water, hence us boaters. I remember the first day my parents brought her home, I was playing in the backyard and brother Robin came out and yelled saying that we got a new dog, so I quickly ran out to the driveway. We had an unusual driveway, it curved down like a hill into our garage. My mom came down over the hill with Josie on a dark purple leash, she came down and she was so small and fluffy, I loved her the moment I saw her. Josie learned the usual habits of jumping up on the counter, barking at the mailman, running down the street to the neighbors, chasing cats and squirrels, DESPITE the training we gave her. Anyways, like I mentioned before we are a family of boaters, we would travel on the weekends to Catalina Island which is a local vacay spot for people who wanted to get away from the city. We brought Josie everywhere with us and she was for sure a water dog, she loved the water. We’d go swimming at the beach and hiking on the winding coastal trails over the desert terrain island. Josie was far the most attached thing since Hondo, I’d always talk to her and tell her about my day or the struggles of the day in an elementary, middle schooler’s life; yet I felt like she always was listening.
My memories of her started out as a child-like love and then as time went on, and I grew up, playing with her became less of a priority, and my attentions were elsewhere. Though, she was there all the time. In 2016, our household changed and my brothers had graduated and had moved out, so my parents decided to sell our house, which to say the least I did not support. Times were changing and I was a high school sophomore living my so-called life. We then moved into another part of town which was an up-and-coming neighborhood with tall apartment buildings, modern restaurants, movie theatres, clean parks, and it was closer to the ocean. So we traded in a four-bedroom house in lovely Culver City for a two-bedroom apartment in trendy Playa Vista. Through that time in my high school career, I was learning about myself and trying to figure out where I fit in. The year between 2017 and 2018 were kind of shitty, in that time I lost someone very special and close to me, and I was at a crossroads in my life. I was graduating high school and I didn’t know that I wanted to do with my life and so I was stressed out. Somehow I then re-found/gained my affection for Josie in the time of hurting and loss. I began to be home more, my friends and I would take her with us to the various dog parks and beaches in the area. She’d prance down the sidewalk and sniff the air and wiggle her bony tail to anybody that passed by or give her attention.
Though Josie was no spring chicken, she was older now, slower, more tired and she’d sleep constantly. She’d begun to lose her eyesight the year before and her fur was matting, sometimes she could barely stand up, this then began to not eating and vomiting. My mom had taken her to the veterinarian many times for treatments, but sadly the doctor said that she had intestine digestion failure. Around the time we sold our house, we had adopted another Portuguese, his name is Rolo. Josie and Rolo were automatically accustomed to each other right off the bat and she taught him all her dirty tricks and moves. Her condition soon worsened and walks turned into a battle. I would take her walks after school down the street, at times she was so weak she just sit down in the middle of the sidewalk and be like “No, I’m done.”, I could relate.
One spring morning, she was huffing and puffing and I and my mom looked at each other and just knew that it was time. I hugged her and gave her kisses on her matted, curly little head and my mom picked her up and brought her to the car. At that moment, I knew that I was going to remember this moment forever and I knew that she was going to a better place where she wasn’t going to be in pain anymore. I told her to take care of our family up in Heaven and that I would see her again one day as well as that I’d always remember our time together. She was a great dog and I will always remember her and the comfort she gave in my hard moments. When she died, I was thinking that this is some fucked up mystical lesson the universe was pulling on me. I think Rolo could sense that she was gone, and it made it harder for us to live without her, but she was an energy that couldn’t be replaced.
Though now, that I am writing this, I see and know that it was a stage/chapter ending, and my time now is precious. Memories are precious, memories are something that can’t be torn from you, they are part of your identity and they are really all we have at the end of the day. Remembering is a cruel, but beautiful thing that is worth doing and living by. Pets give unconditional love, and that love is always there, sometimes we don’t notice it and sometimes we take it for granted. Do you know that saying “ Dog is God spelled backward”? Well in some form or another, I believe it’s true, that animals and dogs, cats, turtles, rabbits, etc, are a form of love and peace. These creatures are put into our lives for a reason and sometimes. They truly just know how to give love in his purest form.