This is a picture of Walter’s first Christmas with my family (yes, that’s my 5-year-old handwriting at the bottom). We got his picture taken at the SPCA where we had adopted him earlier that year, a bouncy, loud but beloved mystery mutt. This Christmas turned out to be his last one with us, and today we said goodbye. Walter lived an incredible 20 years.
Sometimes it’s really hard for people to understand what it means to lose a pet. We live in a society where animals are treated as commodities, exploited and neglected. But anyone who has loved an animal knows their heart, their humor, and their undeniable ability to shape your family. Walter was there from the time I was a little girl, long before I knew I wanted to be an actor, before I met any of the people who are my friends today. He saw my family through 3 homes, me through 4 schools. He was there when we left our home suddenly in the middle of the night when our house caught fire. He was there when I cried for days over my first breakup. He’s the reason why our backyard fence is 8 feet tall (in his day, he could jump high enough to look over the fence and bark at the trash collectors). He’s the last of our motley crew of pets that we got on purpose – my mom said it was love at first sight when she saw him in the shelter, our mystery mutt. Even a DNA test last Christmas failed to solve the mystery of what possible dog heritage could make a dog with black, wiry hair a curly tail, and those crooked ears. Proud of our newest family member, we took him to get his photo taken with Santa. Tonight, these photos sit on an empty bed.
I find comfort in the symmetry of celebration and sadness. There aren’t always ways of making sense of how time passes, things come and go in our lives. The life I had when Walter came into my family is so different from the life I have now. So much joy, so much sadness passed since then. Watching my mom care tirelessly for him in his old age. Remembering his too-loud bark, his mysterious tail, remembering his other four-legged friends who left us first. It hurts in all the beauty of remembering days gone by, of love that lasts. What do you say when it’s time to part with one who gave you years of love, who was a part of almost two decades of your life?
Thank you, thank you.
I love you, I love you.