To my dearest Riley,
To everybody else, you are only a dog, a miniscule fact of life, a being that holds little value when compared to that of a person. It is to this fact that I disagree whole-heartedly. I want to tell you your worth, before I lose my chance, before you are but a memory in my heart.
I had a dream recently. You may remember, because I woke with quite a start that was quickly followed by a constant flow of tears. Alone in the darkness of my bedroom, there was no one there but you to bring comfort; and nobody except you could have brought the comfort I needed. You should know what that dream was about and how much it hurt me. I dreamed with a level of clarity that night I had never experienced before; it felt real. The pain I felt was real. The emotions I felt were real. In the dream something unthinkable happened to you, something absolutely horrifying, and you were gone forever. In the dream I cried hysterically and when I woke, I continued to cry even harder. When I opened my eyes, there you were, pressed up against me and looking at me through those brown, sleep-filled eyes. You gingerly licked a tear off my cheek and rested your forehead against mine. I started crying with more fervor in that moment, but for a much different reason.
To everybody else, you are only a dog. To me, especially for that night, you are my source of comfort.
You have your hobbies, and although they are not hobbies I would enjoy myself, I still see their undeniable charm. I hope you know that I very much enjoy watching you chase those pesky little squirrels, sniffing in the grass on the hunt for hoppy toads, throwing your dirty tennis ball around the room by yourself, and using your mightiest bark to scare the cattle in the pastures. I watch you do these things with awe on my face as well as in my heart. Such simple things are they, but the joy they bring is obvious.
To everybody else, you are only a dog. To me, almost every day, you bring a smile to my face.
You have your many quirks and eccentricities; some of which I wonder where you even learned them. You get mad at me if I let your food bowl show even the slightest amount of depletion. There could be one food pebble out of place, and you feel the need to let me know. You hate the word “bath.” I know you hate going into the deep, dark abyss of the bathtub, but when you try to hide from me because you don’t want to get clean, I can’t help but laugh at you. You don’t like it when I put your toys away. Each toy has to have its own specific spot on the floor and you’re not shy about telling me not to move them. Oh, and how could I forget? You pretend you can’t jump up on my lap while I sit in my recliner. You make me pick you up. I think you do that because you get a kiss every time I do. I suppose even our most ridiculous idiosyncrasies help make us our most perfect version of ourselves.
To everybody else, you are only a dog. To me, beyond all doubt, you are a teacher of the simplest lesson: weirdness and quirkiness, no matter how odd, are part of who we are.
I know that looks don’t matter, or at least they shouldn’t. I am not the prettiest human in the world, nor am I the second prettiest. Looks of humans are lost on you. You don’t see a number on a scale or the size of my clothes. You don’t care that I look a mess when I wake in the morning. Hairstyles are not something that concern you. And yet, when I look my worst, you are still there, awaiting to shower me with love and affection. Even though I’m no Miss America, I could go on for ages about how cute you are: like the way your eyes shine when you see me melts my heart. Your silvery coat, soft against my skin, is the best feeling in the world. The stray hairs surrounding your face always lay at strange angles. The cute little mole on your belly is an invitation for endless kisses. Your tail, although short and stubby, with its enthusiastic wiggles, tells me you are happy. Even when you are dirty, or have food caught in your whiskers, you pull it off as a fashionable accessory. You know that no matter how handsome, or clumsy, you look, I still love you the same, as you would for me. I think we humans could learn a thing or two from you.
To everybody else, you are only a dog. To me, you embody the attitude I wish I could have myself.
Sometimes you think you are big and scary. I must confess to you: you are quite the opposite. Tiny and cute is a more accurate description. Despite your small stature, though, you have an attribute I wish I possessed. Do you know what that attribute is? It’s fearlessness. Even though you weigh four pounds soaking wet, you lunge at attackers without fear and with your teeth bared, ready to fight for what you love. I feel I must confess another secret to you: Those “attackers” are never real. It is a playful friend who strikes me without ire or brutality. They do this because watching you protect me against a foe much larger than you is endearing, as well as comical. I guess, even though you may not inflict much damage against a real attacker, I know that you will always have my back. You have those deep-rooted instincts to protect me. If a real attack were to happen, I have no doubt that with your help, we could get through it together. After all, I would protect you as fiercely as you would me.
To everybody else, you are only a dog. To me, you are my protector, my alarm, and my reason for fighting.
I see in your eyes how sad you are when I put on my shoes. You know that means I’m about to leave you, even if it’s just for a few minutes. When I leave, I wish I could make you understand that I will always come back to you. There is not a single thing in this world that would keep me from coming home to you. You may have noticed that lately I have been home a lot more; I don’t leave you alone early in the morning and come home late in the evening. This is because I have been lucky enough to work at home with you. Working from home is better than I ever could have imagined. Do you know why? It’s because I get to spend my entire day with you. You are the best coworker I could ever ask for, my favorite partner in crime. You keep me sane on those days that seem too hard to get through. When dreadful days gets me down, all I have to do to ease my angered emotions is look at you, hold you, and give you a kiss on the forehead. Knowing that I have you by my side, or at my feet, is more than enough to turn a bad day into a good one.
To everybody else, you are only a dog. To me, you are a reminder that no matter how hard things get, all you need is somebody by your side, even if all they can do is offer a loving embrace.
To everybody else, you are only a dog. To me, you are love, laughter, companionship, my soulmate, a tiny shoulder to cry on, and a friend with an unbreakable bond. When I hold you close, I breathe you in. Like a mother smelling the subtle scents of her newborn child, I often find myself doing the same with you. Would it be strange to say that your scent brings me comfort? In any case, it certainly does. And while you may have stinky breath, the soft tickle of your slimy little tongue on my cheek gives me goosebumps. I fear the day I might have to say goodbye to you. It brings me great trepidation, beyond all rationality. Even now, as I sit here writing, a tear has fallen onto the page from the mere thought of life without you. Your worth is beyond that measurable by words alone. I hope I have shown that to you over the ten years we have been together. I love you, Riley.
Your adoring human