Seven years ago (almost to the day), I moved to Louisville with a little 10 year old dog named Mandy. She had been the family dog for a decade at that point, raised from an itty bitty puppy that could fit in your hands to the 15lb sassy little lady many of us came to love. I was there almost 18 years ago when we picked Mandy out. We had just moved to our new home in the suburbs, and she was the 5th member of our family. Mandy endured and survived my brother’s and my teenage years, and somehow kept loving us. When it came to me moving away 7 years ago, I asked if I could take her with me so I wouldn’t be so alone in a new city. My mother agreed and said Mandy couldn’t live with anyone else.
Mandy has lived an amazingly long life for a dog, and a very healthy life at that. It pains me to say that today around 12:30pm, we had the vet put her to sleep here at our home. Her last moments were beautiful, finishing with a little nibble and lick of my nose (a normal gesture of hers), then she was gone.
The last couple of years Mandy’s age started showing. It started with her starting to miss a step here, miss a jump onto the bed or couch there, to the point where she gave up trying. A vet visit revealed she had cataracts on both eyes and a heart murmur. We believe she’d lost most of her hearing at this point, because she wasn’t there to greet us at the door any longer, bark at strange noises, and it was clear her body wasn’t going to be able to keep up with her strong spirit.
The thing I’m going to miss most about Mandy is her strong independent spirit. She was the type of dog that let you know when she needed to go out, when she was out of food/water (always a self-feeder), and she would let you know if she didn’t want to be bothered. Mandy used to like to cuddle, used to take up half of whatever bed she was sleeping in, and if you disturbed her you were met with a light nip on whatever body part woke her. That’s not to say she wasn’t unloving, because Mandy loved giving kisses. She would never let you get away with only her receiving a kiss. She HAD to kiss you too.
Mandy has always been the queen of whatever house she lived in. At Bellarmine University, when we lived in the residence hall, this was no different. She lived a life mostly leash free, and would go on daily rounds with me floor to floor. She would greet the students, staff, and faculty (which some ended up keeping treats for when she visited). One thing I don’t think she ever got used to was riding the elevator and not understanding how we’d go into a little box and appear in a different place.
Mandy was my first confidant. She was there when I came out to my family (before Steven), keeping me company and comforting me through that anxious, stressful time. She grounded me and having her in my life helped me make better decisions (“I need to go let my dog out” kept me from staying away from home for too long). It’s not always been convenient to have a dog, but as pet owners know, our dogs need us as much as we need them. And while I’ll always cherish the time we’ve had for the last 18 years, I’ll never be able to fill the small, but monstrous, place that she occupied in my heart.
Steven entered our lives not too long after our move to Louisville (around 6 months later) and her and Steven became great friends. I’d jokingly say that she liked him more, but she loved me more. Steven would tell me how depressed she’d get when he would take care of her while I was away from home for periods of time. Together with Steven and Mandy, my life has been grounded in nothing but love for the last 7 years since I left my family in Cincinnati and created the new one in Louisville.
It was love that led Steven and I to decide to have Mandy put to sleep. We love her so much, but we didn’t want to see her spirit give up before her body. It will be love (of each other, friends, and family) that helps us move on, but not forget the first amazing little member of our family. And it will be her love for us, and those kisses, that will give me the hope that I will be as lively, loving, and high spirited as she was in her old age.
Mandy, I’m so grateful for all of your years in my life, but especially the last seven. You’ve trained me just as much (if not more) as I’ve trained you. I’ll always love you and miss you old lady.