Flipping through an old album on Saturday night, I stumbled across a photo of the dog that was a member of my family when I was kid. Brandy, a Golden Retriever mix, came to us by way of the Northeast Animal Hospital when I was seven years old after being abandoned on Revere Beach for, as her Veterinarian suspected, a couple of really wonky hips. While I had always been enamored with the canine species, she was the dog that made me fall in love with “man’s best friend”.
Throughout my Elementary School years, Brandy and I were never far apart: we would spend weekends walking King’s Beach in Swampscott with my brother and our friends, or exploring the woods behind our house with the other denizens of Eastman and its surrounding Ave’s.
Brandy would accompany me when I ran the mile to school each morning (my mother would pick her up when she dropped off my brother). Often she would join me for the run home. Because of this routine, there was at least one occasion when she escaped from our house and followed my brother and I on our walk to school. Hilariously now – frustratingly then -my mother had to be summoned by the Principal to pick up the family dog that was waiting patiently in the school yard for her “siblings” (remember: this was before cell phones).
Because Brandy became my perennial side-kick, I became known as “the dog girl” in my small town, a nickname I relished because of my desire to someday work with dogs. The irony of this is not lost on me now.
As I grew older, my interests shifted from playing outside with my dog to more preteen and adolescent affectations like flirting with boys, and obsessing over Tiger Beat magazine. My love for Brandy never wavered, but the time I spent with her did. She, too, was growing older and likely preferred a more sedentary lifestyle as her maladapted hips continued to give out; eventually, forcing her to do things like eat lying down in order to mitigate the pain they caused.
As Brandy’s hips deteriorated, sadly, so did her health. As is the fate of many Golden Retrievers, she was diagnosed with cancer when she was only seven years old. We had to put her down just as I was beginning high school.
The tragedy of a dog’s life is how short it is in comparison to their human companions. But because there are always lessons in tragedy, so too was there a lesson here for my adolescent mind. Brandy’s short illness and subsequent death taught me how fleeting life is. How something we love can be there and then gone, forever, in what seems like the blink of an eye. Life is so finite. And so fleeting. It is a lesson we must learn over and over but a family dog is often the first teacher of this.
Years later, my heart still swells with love and pride whenever I happen across a photo of this special dog. She was smart, she was gentle, she was kind, and she was a safe and constant companion for a little girl who needed a sanctuary at an incredibly impressionable time in her life.
I would love to see pictures and/or read stories about the dogs in your life, specifically, the dog or dogs who made you fall in love with the canine species. Please share them with me here!