Owning a dog is the single greatest privilege on earth.
I say this with great certainty as my dear Pee Wee snuggles up next to me on this Christmas Eve afternoon after a pretty awful Christmas Eve morning. You see, today is the 9th anniversary of my grandma’s death and tomorrow is the 15th anniversary of my father’s death. Yup, both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are rough days for me, but I choose to be happy with those I love as best as I can.
It can’t be repeated enough that for us mere humans, dogs are part of our life, but for them, we are their whole lives. Their whole, beautiful, Frito paw smelling lives.
Pee Wee’s been in my life 10 years, and I officially do not own a piece of clothing or furniture that doesn’t have his hair on it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. He is my greatest joy in life. Daniel and I are huge advocates and supporters of dog shelters and organizations who help dogs get into good homes.
Everyone knows I am particularly sensitive about dogs, so they usually spare me the stories of dog tales gone bad. I silently judge people who have dogs and don’t properly care for them. Silently being the keyword of that sentence.
Our love affair with your dog came along one summer’s afternoon in 2015 as we were working outside. She is so friendly, full of life, and the kindest creature. I initially named her Quincy because I am obsessed with Quincy the Dog on Facebook, and frantically we looked for a way to contact you that she had escaped your backyard. We thought it was the right thing to do.
We sent a Facebook message to your daughter, and she apologized. We managed to get her back inside the backyard only for her to wiggle out and escape once more. Daniel rigged your trash can to block the gap in your fence and found various ways to try to keep her safe in your yard.
Hours later, you still weren’t home. Now, I know people work and have lives, but she is your dog. I would have rushed home if Pee Wee somehow got out of our home.
The next day, she was out again. Daniel went over with huge cinderblocks that we gave you to help keep her in your yard.
The day after, she was out again and I walked over to let you know and you kind of blew me off. I did this three more times. I figured I was annoying you, but I thought you’d take the hint.
I hate to admit this, but I felt like if I kept bugging you, you’d do something to my dog, home or vehicles. I am a coward because you hear about so many crazy people. Plus, I know you’re a nurse, so I truly thought you placed value on life.
Eventually you stopped trying to keep her in your yard, and Amber (yes, that’s her real name, we learned) just became one of those dogs that roamed free. We became accustomed to learning to watch out for her as we left for work, came home for lunch, went back to work, came home from work, etc.
Now, I know it’s America and you have the right to do what you wish within reason, but it is also your responsibility to take care of your dog. You also have another dog in your backyard, and that one has a less adventurous spirit and stays back there most of the time. Please ensure she is always safe from this day forward, if nothing else.
As the months passed, we had to keep treats in our car to throw out our window so we could get her to move out of our way into our yard for safety and so we could safely drive by to park. We went through a box of treats every two weeks.
Actually, we just bought a new box three days ago and gave Amber a few treats yesterday, the 23rd of December, to help our friends pull out of our driveway. Even though it was nearly midnight, Amber was up for treats and petting. Her green eyes bright and shiny…do you love her beautiful green eyes as much as we do? They’re stunning.
There were countless times I ran out into the street to get the UPS or FedEx driver’s attention so they wouldn’t hit Amber. Guests would come over to our house, and we’d have to meet them outside to try to get Amber out of the way.
Daniel would spend time with her and love on her when he did yard work. I’d go outside and rub her belly, which made her SO happy. She literally peed herself, and my shoes, several times.
This song and dance became our new normal for the past few months.
And as time went on, I thought to myself…I love your dog, why don’t you?
In fact, I was thinking about this very thing as I showered this morning, when my husband walked into the bathroom and told me to get out.
I was alarmed. Was our septic system having an issue? We always have issues with that darn thing.
Then he said it again, calmly, “Get out of the shower.”
As I slid the shower door open, I saw my husband, sobbing.
“Amber is dead.”
I didn’t think I heard him correctly, so I said, “What?”
“Amber is dead. She’s in the street. She’s been hit.”
I got dressed in under a minute, and I ran to your house. I rang the doorbell repeatedly. No one answered.
I ran over to my husband who was standing over Amber’s body, sobbing and blaming himself. You see, we’ve debated whether or not to kidnap her for months, but we didn’t want to over step. We knew we could have done more than silently judge you for how little you cared about her safety and well being.
My husband then went to our garage, got a box and gloves, and through his tears picked up Amber off the street. Her body is still warm as I touch her pretty head. My heart shatters into a million pieces.
He then proceeds to put the box on your doorstep. By this time, I’ve called my mother who had also thought about kidnapping her, and she tells me you’d likely throw her body away. I can’t live with that thought.
So, we take her to our yard, where she’s consumed hundreds of treats and where we’ve had the immense privilege of spending time with her. She loved us, I think. We love her, too. I don’t say it in the past tense, because I will always love her in my heart.
We dig a hole on Christmas Eve morning as Daniel and I take turns sobbing and asking why this happened. Amber was so beautiful, full of life, but stuck with people who didn’t even care.
I say this because your daughter pulled up into your driveway as we were digging the grave. We walked over to tell her the bad news, and rather than being met with the reaction you’d expect of someone who loved their dog, she said, “It was hard to keep her in the yard.”
I yelled at her, “It is your responsibility to take care of your dog, and now she’s dead in a box in our yard on Christmas Eve.” She stared at me and said nothing.
Then we continued to dig. And dig. And dig some more. More and more family and cars pull into your driveway and stare at us as we stand there, digging and digging. Again, I am silently judging you. I see you all taking out ice chests and food, likely for a Christmas Eve lunch with those you love. How nice.
And here we are digging a grave for the dog you didn’t love. Now, we know you didn’t ask us to, but it was the right thing to do. And ultimately, Amber deserved it. We did it for her.
The spot we picked as Amber’s final resting place is full of roots. It was a lot of work. We buried her with the box of treats we had just opened. She loved treats!
Being a dog owner is a lot of work.
And you failed.
I know you’ll never read this, and if you do, you won’t care. But I just wanted you to know that we loved your dog, and ultimately, now she’s safe. I’ll never forget seeing her lifeless body in the street. I’ll never forget the pain she caused my family on Christmas Eve. I’ll never forget the sounds of my husbands sobs as he vehemently blamed himself for not doing more to protect her.
Amber, I’m so sorry I failed you. I should have taken you to a shelter. I should have brought you into my home. I should have done more to protect you. In your memory, I promise to never silently judge a dog owner again, but to call them on it in an effort to advocate for voiceless animals. Your death was a wakeup call that silence in these matters accomplishes nothing. I’m so so sorry.
The sun peeked out for just a moment as we finished putting dirt over her body. I’d like to think that was you, Amber, telling us you’re in a better place and roaming free without the threat of cars.
But, my question to you, my neighbors, still remains: If I love your dog, why don’t you?
Monica, Daniel & Pee Wee