When I first met you, you looked me in the eye, when the others didn’t. I saw it as a sign of love. You meant it as a challenge. I took you home thinking how wonderful it would be. We would play with your toys, take walks outside, you'd give me sweet puppy kisses, and when we were tired there would be snuggling on the couch.
Reality soon bit me in the face. What few toys you actually bothered to play with you destroyed in minutes. The bones that were supposed to ease you through the teething stage were spit out and abandoned. Fingers, wrists, and arms were much more satisfying to chomp.
You flunked out of puppy class. You almost bit your vet technician, who recommended I give you up as you obviously had issues. An experienced trainer told me, I would probably never be able to pet you, and I should just keep you as a guard dog. That’s not what I wanted for either of us.
Exhausted, covered in black and blue marks, and feeling defeated, I almost did what I swore I would never do, give up one of my dogs to a rescue. My sister didn’t want to let you go. You had managed to work your way into her heart.
When we reached the place of the surrender, the volunteers were all playing with you, and saying they wanted to be your foster. They even offered to trade me a well trained calm adult, but then I looked at you, and all I could think is I don’t want another dog. You are my dog. The people at the rescue understood, and made arrangements for us to work with a certified master trainer. She admitted a few times that you were the most stubborn puppy she'd ever worked with but she said, if we wouldn’t give up she wouldn’t either. It wasn’t easy but we turned the corner. I am not saying there weren’t incidents after, like the time you pulled me down and I broke my finger because you wanted to chase the deer, but they became fewer.
You quit using me as your chew toy. We invented our own form of dancing. It mainly consisted of you holding onto a bully stick while I dragged you around the room but, hey, it was to music. I will always remember how you’d stop whatever you were doing and go and get that stick whenever music started to play. We finally started to share naps and you rested your head on my knee. That was the most comforting feeling in the world to me. The same vet technician that had declared you vicious even said she couldn’t believe you were the same dog, as you were now a big sweetheart.
It was perfect but then the world shattered. Cancer entered your body, and, like the stubborn brave girl you always were, you tried to fight it, but it was a battle you could not win. So I made the decision it was time to say goodbye. This time there was no changing what had to be done even though every part of me wished there was. I let you go to the place where there is no more pain.
There will be other dogs, but not to take your place. No other could. I wouldn’t trade a minute we had together despite the early struggles. I also meant my last words to you as you closed your eyes for the final time. I will love you forever, Marnie. Thank you for looking me in the eye that day to let me know you were my dog, and you always will be.