Updated: Aug 15
It's funny how my daughter was always so against having a sibling. Since she was a toddler, she couldn't even bear the idea of being a big sister. On the other hand, for years, she asked to have a dog. I was the one always against it, but not because I don't like dogs. I many of them growing up, and I loved each and every single of them. OK, I admit—some more than others, but regardless, they were like my little siblings. I was the youngest of three children and the only girl, so I felt lonely quite often. But my dogs were always there. If I felt sad or wanted company, I always went to be with them.
Most were so nice to me—Keti, however, not so much. She was very skeptical and would hide most of the time. One day, I had a not-so-clever idea: While she was eating in the backyard, I grabbed her bone and ran toward the house as fast as I could. Once I managed to get up the steps that headed to the kitchen, I turned around and there she was, right on my face! She didn't have to jump very high to reach me. I still have a tiny little scar on the top of one of my eyebrows from two or three stitches for pulling that stunt (I watched one of my brothers do successfully steal Keti’s bone many times). The good news is, I've learned my lesson to not copy others. I also never blamed her for what she did. As soon as I saw her coming at me, I knew I deserved it.
When she was old and very sick—I believe she had cancer—my dad took her to the vet and never brought her home. It took me a long time to understand what was going on. I guess at that age, I wasn't ready to understand the meaning of letting go.
But we still had Ledi. He was a silly, playful dog. He was with us for many years, but he didn't have a chance to grow old. One day, he started to drop his back legs and couldn't get up. There were rumors he was poisoned. It also could have been a disease. I actually never tried to find out since learning the truth and confirming the first hypothesis would be too painful.
So, Layka came along. She was one of the many stray dogs we adopted, but the first puppy I had. It was so exciting to watch every step of her development. I loved taking care of her and giving her love and attention. She was the dog that transitioned with me from childhood to my teenage years. Sadly, one Sunday morning, she got so sick I had to walk around the town with her in my arms trying to find a vet. Back then, there was no Uber or Lyft. I also couldn't afford a taxi, nor I did own a car. That was a very sad day for me and my mom. We felt helpless. She had eaten something she wasn't supposed to in the backyard, and there was no way back considering her age. She had to be put down.
Atila was a silly Doberman mix. He moved in with us after the farm he lived on was sold. He used to help herding cattle as they returned to the barn out from the pasture. He was with me through the end of my teenage years and into young adulthood. Later on, he ended up having a heart issue. I was lucky enough to be able to say goodbye while I was temporarily back in Brazil. It was a heartbreaking moment to witness him as he laid flat on the ground, having a hard time breathing. I gave him one last kiss right before he was taken away to never return. Once again, it was very hard to let another friend go. He was my buddy. He was so playful and sweet. He used to greet me at my bedroom window every time I opened it.
Babi was another one of our stray dogs. She was a tiny, black, cranky dog. She was so protective of my mom. She was cute, but she was mostly a one-person dog and I used to spend more time with Layka and Atila. She passed away years after I moved out. She was lucky to live for many years.
Now, they are all in dog heaven, except for my dear old Lu who was everything to me when I
lived in Brazil. She was by my side during some very lonely times. She was a puppy when we got her and she used to sleep in a box filled with blankets next to my bed. While working on my thesis during winter months, I would sit her on my lap so we could keep each other warm. I tried to bring her to live with me in the US in 2011, but she became my mom’s best little friend and it was just better for the two of them to stay together. She not only gives her company, but also kept her safe with the help of Mea, another sweet mutt of ours who moved in after I moved out. Now, Lu is about to turn 14 and is currently fighting back issues and cancer. She is having trouble getting up, but it is a blessing she is still among us considering the fact that she is a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix and their life expectancy varies from 10 to 12 years.
Having to say more goodbyes wasn't something I wanted to experience again, and certainly not something my daughter would enjoy. The idea of not having any close family members to care for a dog when we traveled made my heart ache. When I was growing up, we always had my grandmother to stop by and look after our dogs. Pets are a big responsibility, after all. Kinda like children who never grow and become part of the family. I just wasn't ready to commit. That, however, changed the day my daughter shared her thoughts with me:
“If I can't have a dog, then I would like a turtle for my birthday!"
That's when I realized it was time to give in and get a pet. But not a turtle! We were going to get her a dog. Not one, but two! That would solve the hardest thing for me—leaving the poor baby alone when we would go out of town. So, we went to a Miami-Dade Animal Shelter and adopted Oreo and Peanut Butter. They are a lot of work but worth every single bit of it! Also, we got a pretty good discount on them since they were over 35 pounds. Big dogs also need love! And here, they get plenty of it, at least most of the time.
"The Doidas" at Bark Beach
In the future, I would like to write a post just about them, but today, I wanted to share my thoughts on how glad I am that I changed my mind and decided to adopt them. Something very touching happened last night while my husband was feeling sick. He couldn't get comfortable in bed so he moved to the couch. Since the dogs didn't get to go for their walk, we decided to let them stay in the house for the night instead of sleeping in their pen. At around 2 a.m. I woke up with Oreo crying next to my side of the bed. I got up, thinking she was asking to go outside so I started to follow her. As I stopped to grab my glasses, she sat down, staring at me. Once she saw I was moving again, she walked all the way to the living room and sat by the couch where my husband was. She was worried about him and wanted me to check on him. Meanwhile, Peanut was lying right by him. How sweet was that?! Just another simple example of how amazing these animals are (not to mention the other night when she followed him to the couch, jumped on top of him, and slept on his lap for a while).
Both of these dogs have added so much to our family and filled our home with joy, despite the mess they make. When I look at all of it, I realize my previous concern about one day having to let them go is just a small afterthought compared to all the happiness they bring now. I am so glad I did want to want to have dogs back in my life!
Adopt a friend!