We Americans love our pets! By 2020, we will spend roughly $96 billion dollars on our four-legged companions. When I reflect on this number and think about the money spent on the three dogs living in my household (Trudy, Moose, Polly), I have to admit, I am guilty of contributing my fair share towards this surging sales trend. Bark Box, bully sticks, specialty grain-free dog food, vitamins and supplements for joints and stomach, clean teeth and bad breath chews, and bedtime bones are all standard dog-related purchases spelled out in our monthly budget. Trudy, due to her age, has her own “maintenance” category receiving expensive allergy and arthritis medication every morning and acupuncture and laser therapy sessions every week. Then, there are the indirect costs such as, replacing two pairs of chewed up sandals (thank you very much, Polly), scratched hardwood floors, carpeting, refilling holes and sod repair in the yard – the list can go on and on. Many non-pet owners, upon hearing about situations like mine, scratch their heads and wonder, “why anyone would ever bring a pet into their home?” But I know why! Please allow me to elaborate.
Whether walking in the door from a long day away or a thirty-second jaunt to the curb to grab my mail, I am greeted by three wagging tails and smiling, happy faces. I am never without a dog at my feet and can’t leave a room without being followed by my entourage. To be loved unconditionally countless times a day sometimes goes to my head. This feeling of conceit is quickly rectified, however, when discovering that aforementioned chewed up sandal or the muddy paw prints Moose so graciously painted on my white sofa. Yet, my dogs bring me an immense amount of pleasure and an irreplaceable sense of companionship. These feelings only increase when I watch my dogs interact with my sons. Sweet Polly brings out their tender sides, something I rarely see in my teens these days. The boys speak lovingly to her as they stroke her ears and rub her belly. Moose, while not as sweet as his younger sister, still loves to receive affection. His favorite part of the day, however, is spent roughhousing with the boys in our living room and entertaining them with his antics, eliciting hearty giggles from his willing subjects. Watching them all play with childlike abandonment takes me back to when my sons were little, and for a moment, I take comfort in knowing that they are not yet all grown up. As for Trudy, our senior resident, we reserve our deepest affection and most delicate of touch for her. These days, I feel overcome with a fondness for my old girl. Trudy, seenmingly always by my side lately, has journeyed with me through some treasured chapters in my life. It is for this reason, that out of the five dogs we have had over the years, she is a bit more special.
Ms. Trudy, at 15-years and a Jack Russell at that, has penned some lively stories in my book. She was Drew’s first playmate, and often, where you would find one you would find the other; It was a bit akin to having twins. I spent most days chasing Drew and then Trudy and cleaning up the aftermath of their antics. I would fall into bed at night completely drained, unable to pinpoint which rascal to blame for my exhaustion. During my pregnancy with Ben, Trudy snuggled up to my growing belly, enduring kicks from within, silently protesting the loss of real estate on my lap. After Ben was born, she would jump out of bed and walk with me along the well-worn carpet trail which led to the nursery. In the wee hours of the morning, Trudy sat on the floor next to the glider as I nursed her baby brother making it very clear, she was in this parenting thing with me for the long haul.
Trudy helped me raise babies, who quickly became toddlers, then little boys, and who are now becoming young men. She found her best friend in Buddy (our Golden Retriever), and when he died two years ago, she grieved his loss until Mr. Moose came along. My once feisty, tenacious, and adventurous Jack Russell who kept the boys in line and every dog, cat, and critter at bay, is now retired and enjoying some much-needed rest. Thankfully, Moose has Polly to keep him entertained, leaving Trudy to sleep much of the day with the sole purpose of keeping track of treat-time and meals. She is now deaf, slowly losing her vision, and walks gingerly on her old bones sometimes falling to the floor waiting patiently for someone to walk by and help her back up. I am not sure how many more chapters Trudy will write with me, and I fear, her final one is near.
I am thankful for this little girl sitting at my feet, for the family we raised together, and for the memories we share. My heart already grieves for the day I have to write Trudy’s last sentence. To say goodbye to my constant companion also means closing the book on some of the best years of my life. But for now, Trudy still has some spark left in her, and until she tells me otherwise, I will dog-ear this page and let her story play out.
So, while their days with us may be short-lived, the impact our pets have on our lives is immeasurable. With the loss of a pet, we close the binding of their book and place it lovingly on the shelf. We will revisit their story from time to time over the years, recounting memories that make us laugh and sometimes, make us cry. But mostly, we are grateful for the journey we shared with our pet and the cherished moments that brought so much love and joy to our lives. That is really what pet ownership is all about, after all, joy and love, with maybe a little bit of rottenness thrown in to keep us humble.
For the time being, it seems Americans will stick with the trend of filling our homes with pets. As a result, our bank accounts may suffer, but in my opinion, the trade-off is worth every penny!