My dog Tasha died yesterday.
Thought I’d get that out of the way to start. I’m writing this because I am a writer and writing is an easy way for my thoughts to evolve. And right now, I’d like to find some better feeling thoughts…
So here goes…
Tasha had a good run in this world. The little chart at the vet’s office said she was 88 in human years.
She was a Lab-mix, her big head hinting at something like a Rottweiler. She loved to swim and did so in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. She lived her days off a leash, laying in the grass atop our hillside, surveying her domain. She was an open-the-door-and-let-her-go dog. She was thoughtful enough to do her business in the woods. She snored. Loudly. Her stocky body and gentle temperament made her extremely huggable. She had a fast tongue and would lick your face if it passed anywhere in her vicinity. She was more interested in relaxing and chewing on the ball than playing fetch with you.
As sweet as she was, she was also an alpha. She was the queen and all other dogs would heed her growl. She was my dog for 13 years, the last dog to come into my father’s life – cute enough to coax his old bones to the floor to play with her. She would bring me great comfort when he died a couple of months later. Her hips were never good and I thought I was going to have to put her down before Christmas, but she keep chugging along. Tasha was a chugger. A local dog expert I know would make passing comments about how he thought she was near the end four years ago, but Tasha buried two of his younger dogs since then. And yes, I took a perverse pride in that.
Perhaps the highest compliment I can bestow on her is to say she was an easy dog to have and love.
Tasha’s back end finally gave out other day. It was clear The Day had come. I’d steeled myself for it for years now… I’d practiced every time someone walked in my house and not so cryptically asked, “How old is your dog?” but my eyes are still tired and swollen from the reality of saying goodbye to my Girlfriend.
I’m starting to tear up again, and while I am sure I could type myself into a puddle here, that doesn’t feel better to do. In fact, it feels almost disrespectful to Tasha.
So I’ll retell one of the best parts of the story of Tasha and Drew…
(I find that most great relationships have a cool “how-we-met story” and Tasha and I have one.)
In the summer of 2000, I was visiting my friend Deb in northern Michigan. We went out for a walk in the woods with her chocolate lab on the state land that borders her property. Deep in the forest we heard some odd yelping (coyotes?) and before we knew it, four puppies were jumping on our shins. Abandoned by someone, the little dogs were starving. They would not have lasted much more than another day or two in the wild.
The pups were no dummies, they followed us home to Deb’s garage. Over the next couple days, Deb de-wormed them and they started to put on some weight.
By definition, puppies are adorable and after few day with them, I grew attached and contemplated taking one home with me.
As tempting as the idea felt, it was also completely impractical. Thirty years old, I was floating in post-graduate-degree world, feeling out what it was like live as an entrepreneur, scraping by. I already had one large dog waiting for me in New York. I lived with my girlfriend in an apartment I rented. Apart from my other dog, my life was full of semi-commitments. I lived on the border of Manhood, visiting occasionally, but yet to become a resident.
The next morning after packing for my flight home later in the day, I sat on Deb’s stoop imagining what it would be like to have a puppy again. Just then, one of the pups came over, plopped her head on my foot, and fell fast asleep. She snored. Loudly.
I decided we would be together. I decided it would all work out. Lots of thoughts popped into my head that told me I shouldn’t be doing this, but I said, “Phucket!” to each of them.
In the next moment, Deb and I were driving to the airport, stopping off at a box store, buying a cat carrier for the flight home. Tasha flew in the crate beneath my feet, my knees jacked up to the window. (You could still do such things in those days). I remember rushing her out of the airport in O’Hare during a layover so she could make her mark on the Marriott lawn.
In the end, it all worked out. We had a great life together.
Deciding to take Tasha home shaped many of my decisions going forward – everything from where I lived, to who I hung out with, to how and where I spent my time.
Sure, she was just a dog, but I never felt that she was “just” anything. She was a partner in my life. We were a package deal. Within six months, I’d ended my relationship, moved 3000 miles across the country, and fully focused on my business (quadrupling my income and never looking back).
Most important, when I took stock of my life, it was MY life. I made decisions according to MY preferences. I became a Man.
Now, I am quite sure I would have gotten here somehow without Tasha…
But I know she helped me get here faster. And she made my life much more fun.
I appreciate all the experiences and memories you brought to my life, sweet dog.
You were a very good decision.