It hurts me to write this but it also helps with the pain. This is Long but here we go. On Tuesday 7/19 my Mom had to put Rico to sleep. He got ill and it escalated super quickly. The vet thinks he may have had Leukemia. I cried harder than I cried during Coco, The Notebook, & Marley and Me combined. And I heard my mom’s cries and that hurt even worse. I can only imagine what she is feeling.
For me, Rico was my dog too. I didn’t live at the house anymore but when I visited I gave him my all and in return he gave me his. We were best friends. I grew up with German Shepherds and my mom always trained them perfectly. You can tell that dog to sit and go walk a mile and walk back and he’d still be there. He knew how to heel, stay, sit, down, all sorts of things. Didn’t jump on you. He was perfect…… that is … until I came around. “Insert evil laugh here” I’d wrestle with him on the ground, allow him to lick my face, let him lay on me. And my mom would catch us rolling around and would say in that Mom tone, “LAUREN!” And I’d reply, “What?! He wants to play with me” And then she would say, “ever-time you come I have to retrain him” because I would undo all her hard work. And you know what? I didn’t care. And secretly, I don’t think she minded either because she got to see her “kids” play around.
Rico was one of my favorite German Shepherds out of my Mom’s pack. We’ve had quite a few over the years but he was special. He was blacker than black. All of these pictures, I had to brighten and blow everyone out because his coat would just look like a black hole. It was the most beautiful black coat you’ve ever seen. In person, his coat was stunning. Perfect big ass ears, Big massive body with the most enormous paws. Weighing around 120 lbs he was a BIG boy. So wrestling with him was tough. I never showed fear but there was a few times where my internal voice is saying, “You have a 120 lb animal standing on your chest, what are you thinking?”
In the mornings, Rico loved to workout. Or I guess what I mean is NOT let YOU workout. My mom and I workout every morning together on zoom. I’m in LA and she’s in San Diego. And every morning we get on our zoom and start our Beach Body workout. And Every time, I’ll hear her during our workout either scream in laughter or shout out “Rico!!!” And sure enough you’d see him sit right in the middle of her yoga mat. So when I would come visit and we’d workout, it was even worse than I imagined. I included this video of him because there I am trying to stretch out the glutes and this guy thinks its playtime. I have so many videos of him interrupting our workouts and we would just laugh it off. It’s hard to get used to him not interrupting us. I loved seeing him every morning on the zooms and I know my mom misses that too, regardless of how difficult he made it for her.
There are a lot of things I’m going to miss about him. I’m going to miss sharing my banana with him, or feeding him celery, throwing his toy and playing tug of war knowing I’d never win, or having him sleep in my room when I’d stay over knowing that any given time throughout the night, he may put his big ol’ head on the bed and dog nose me so I could pet him, or watching him chase coyotes, or seeing the excitement he would get when you picked up the hose. He sure did love water. I mean LOVED water. I’m going to miss his awkwardly sleeping positions, or the excitement he would get when I’d drive up the driveway, and the way he would greet me with so much joy. You just couldn’t possibly find anyone else in the world that would greet you with so much happiness for you and only you.
Each loss of a pet gets harder over the years. Maybe it’s because life gets shorter. Maybe its because life becomes more precious. But who is to say why? Is it because we see the end is near? We are more grateful for those sunset walks, morning breakfasts, or celebrations. I ponder the why? Why does this happen? Why does God take these special beings from us? And I recently read a book called “The Stranger in the Lifeboat” and that same question arose in the book and I love this explanation.
In this passage below, God is speaking to one of the characters in the book who had asked why God took his loved one from him. It Reads:
“When someone passes, Benjamin, people always ask, ‘Why did God take them?’ A better question would be ‘Why did God give them to us?’ What did we do to deserve their love, their joy, the sweet moments we shared? Didn’t you have such moments with Annabelle?”
“Every day,” he rasped.
“Those moments are a gift. But their end is not a punishment. I am never cruel, Benjamin. I know you before you are born. I know you after you die. My plans for you are not defined by this world. Beginnings and endings are earthly ideas. I go on. And because I go on, you go on with me. Feeling loss is part of why you are on Earth. Through it, you appreciate the brief gift of human existence, and you learn to cherish the world I created for you. But the human form is not permanent. It was never meant to be. That gift belongs to the soul. I know the tears you shed, Benjamin. When people leave this Earth, their loved ones always weep. But I promise you, those who leave do not.”― Mitch Albom, The Stranger in the Lifeboat
So in the moment that my mom told me she had to go put Rico down, I asked her this question of ‘Why?’. Because last week when I read this above passage, I understood it. But in the blackness of hearing my family dog is going to be put to sleep, I questioned why? Here is a dog that lived to serve its master to the fullest. It did everything it could do right. It lived in the human experience. It gave love and absorbed the sadness and turmoil that us humans feel and turned that sadness into love. How could God take this loving dog from us? And then I think of the question that we don’t ask, Why did god give them to us? And what was it that we deserved this person or pet, etc? And then that ‘their end isn’t a punishment to us’ even though it may seem that way. We must learn to cherish the world we live in.
All of those thoughts swirl through my head. Its not easy to digest at first but I do understand it. I think Rico was here to let me know personally to never take life for granted. To cherish those that are here on this earth. And to live life like him. Have fun, find your people, and let all the small stuff go away. This isn’t the last death that I will experience. But if I can soak up the people that I love the most while they’re here then I’ll be able to not have any regrets. Death gives us so much clarity and hope. Death is something that is for the living. We must learn something from it, grow from it, embrace it and see peace in it. It may not look like it when a young child dies, or a parent, or a wife or even a pet. They are all important, but for the true gift from the departure we must look at it in this way so that we do not hold on to regret, sadness, tragedy, and hopelessness.
I wish I had one more hug with Rico. I remember when I visited over a month ago, I took a picture with him, and he looked so happy. It’s the last picture I have of him. I wish I got to say goodbye. I thought I had more Rico time. And the fact is, I didn’t. ‘Life is short’ is such an overused slung around term. But it’s true. It’s short, we take it for granted. We are cheap with it and We don’t value it until its gone.
Before my Mom hung up the phone with me to go see Rico at the vet, she answered my question of ‘why’ & said, “Maybe this is a reminder to cherish life and not hold on so tight.” Ugh. How do moms always know what to say.
So I thank Rico for giving me this grace, & letting me see that through his death, I will live life to the fullest. I can’t believe that hunk of love can spread cheer and hope even in his passing. What a true friend.
I’ll miss him dearly but I will keep these thoughts close to my heart. I wanted to share this with you whom are still reading this novel that I wrote (you know I’m long winded, come on!) Because I want you to know that life is precious and we can’t sit on our heels. We must be kind to one another, be helpful, not live with boxes of resentment. Resentment is like swallowing poison and expecting the other person to die. Forgive often, Love Hard, and never let a day go by that leaves you with something unsaid. Whether that be an “I Love You” an “I’m sorry” or “Lets clear the air”. If you’ve read this far, thanks for hearing my pain and my journey through this. It’s been tremendously helpful. Oh and one more thing. F*CK CANCER.