To All the Dogs I’ve Loved Before

I was a very driven child, though there wasn’t just one thing I was working towards. I was always just kind of working towards everything.

One of my little side quests as a child was fostering dogs. After leaving letters in my neighbor’s mailboxes asking if they needed a dogsitter or dogwalker, it quickly morphed into helping the Humane Society as well.

The hardest thing about fostering dogs is that, especially when they’re older, you fall in love with them. My family never had room or time for another dog long term so there was no wiggle room in possible adoption, we had to find them new homes. For the puppies, it was easier to let go. When a dog is only 8 weeks old, it’s hard to connect with them on a personal level or anything above just realizing that they’re cute. The older dogs, that’s where it gets hard. They have a personality developed and they cause far less trouble than the puppies. I was lucky enough to place my two hardest goodbyes, Lady and Shadow, into homes I was in close proximity to.

Lady went to my cousin and her fiancé who had just recently settled down in a house. Shadow went to the new family at the top of my street. The energy Shadow used to burn by jumping our fence and running around our neighborhood while I chased him barefoot and in my pajamas was now being used to herd the two teenage boys in his house. Both these dogs got placed when I was 7 years old, which is 13 years ago now.

When I saw my phone ringing with a call from my cousin yesterday, my stomach dropped as soon as I saw her name. Being almost 20 years older than me, it’s not like we connect much more than speaking about Lady, who was now having trouble jumping into the backseat of the car and seemed to go for shorter and shorter walks.

It hit me immediately that the first dog I ever fostered was just put down. Being only 20, I’m constantly told to try everything I can. I see the start of so many different hobbies and ventures. Never before have I seen the catalyst, the thing that marked my beginning in an interest I hold so dear to my heart, just disappear. When I was a junior in high school I started working for the dog kennel close to my house as a part-time job. During the interview, they asked me about my experience taking care of dogs and any experience I had working with rescues.

I predominately spoke about Lady. She was abused as a puppy and brought to the Humane Society at two years old, nobody wants a two-year-old dog that’s afraid of people. We took her in. She was shy at first, and I was the only one she wasn’t afraid of because one night I snuck out of bed and sat on the floor in the living room completely ignoring her so that she could get close to me and sniff me without being afraid. Then I pulled out all the dog toys we had and let her choose which one she wanted. The next morning my mom found me asleep on the hardwood floor with my arm on top of Lady, who was laying in a sea of stuffed animals. I told them I still get to see Lady and I think we have a special bond. That she’s more comfortable around people now because my cousins treat her like a queen. I never knew dogs could be so spoiled. As I think back to this interview, it strikes me that I would now have to tell people about Lady in the past tense.

I know it won’t be too long until the same fate comes upon Shadow. I most likely won’t know when this happens, as the family that adopted him no longer lives in our neighborhood. I know that Shadow lived a real good life as well. A rambunctious puppy turned into one of the greatest companions. His favorite activities included chewing gum (actually chewing, he knew not to swallow it), and sitting close enough to the firepit in the winter that he had a permanent bald spot on his tail from where he would singe it in the fire.

I was recently reading my old journals back and found a book report I wrote in fifth grade after reading A Dog’s Journey.

“Dogs love us for their entire lives, but we only love them the best for part of our lives. It makes me feel guilty for moving on to another dog when we are the apple of their eye for every second they spend on earth. It’s not fair that dogs don’t live the same full lifespan that we do.”

I’m still in the early stages of my life which come with still believing that I am somewhat invincible when it comes to death even though logically I know I am not. When a death like this comes up, when I realize that an animal I loved is now permanently removed from the earth – that logical part of my brain kicks in. The appearance of death makes one think more about death which is, even for people who believe they are slightly invincible, is a scary thought.

However, knowing that when it is my time to go, hopefully far into the future, I’ll have a whole pack of dogs waiting for me with smiling faces and wagging tails to greet me after our long separation– well, it does ease my mind quite a bit. All the dogs I loved before, waiting for our grand reunion.

Yours truly,



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