Friend, last night, you told me that you missed me.
I hope you meant that it isn’t that you miss me; you just miss what we once had.
Our lives have changed so much over the years, but my undying affection for you has never wavered. Not the time you forgot to leave a light on for me, nor the time you yelled at me for digging through the trash.
And, I promise, not even once after you introduced me to the children.
When you told me last night me that you missed me, I thought back to the day we first met.
At the time, I was in a strange place with strange people. You walked in the door, and right away, I felt we were connected. Of all the people in that room, I bounded over to you. You showered me with hugs and pets and belly rubs, and I swore that it was my job to love and protect you from that day forward.
We had so much fun those first few years. I got to chase away the boys who tried to date you, and I slept in your bed to keep you safe from summer thunderstorms.
We spent evenings on the futon, you watching TV and me looking out the window, always ready to bark at squirrels that would get too close to you.
Everywhere you went, there I was. I inspected new apartments before you moved in, and I acted as your pace car during your 5Ks. We took road trips together and you put my window down so I could sniff out danger (and because you know I love the feel of the wind in my ears).
When the man came into the picture, I was ready to bark him into oblivion. I quickly realized, though, that he loved me the way you loved me – instantly and unconditionally. I decided it was my job to protect him, too. And I was happy, because I still got to go on runs with you. You still threw the ball for me in the back yard, and I could still jump in bed with you on those scary nights.
But then, the children came. Initially, I was not happy with the way they seemed to frazzle you. Who were these invaders? Why wouldn’t they let you rest? I tried to convince them to stop their crying by licking their tears away. I even let them pull my tail and hold my paws because it kept them occupied so you could do what you needed to do.
That’s when things really changed. Our walks would get cut short, and sometimes our games of fetch would have to take place indoors. You used to praise me for barking when someone knocked on the door (because I was such a good guard dog), but after the kids came, you would shush me and get upset when I accidentally woke a baby.
It wasn’t always so hard, though. Every once in a while, we escaped. It took you a little while to get back to our pace on our runs, but I was happy to slow down and make sure you were OK. I loved sneaking onto some isolated path that snaked through trees’ shadows. The only noises were our panting and you telling me what a good girl I was. No screaming babies, no frustrated voices, no annoying toys. Just you, me and the fresh air.
Fast forward to last night, when you looked at me with eyes that said you felt bad about how much our relationship has changed.
I’m not mad at you. I love the children. I have decided to welcome them into our pack and protect them, too. They are great to chase around, and they feed me scraps when you aren’t looking.
We both know that my best years are behind me. I hear it in your voice. You give me extra treats and ask me how I’m doing more often. I struggle to keep up with you on our runs (thanks for slowing down to make sure I’m OK). I spend more time sleeping than I used to, and I can’t get up the stairs quite as quickly as my puppy legs once carried me.
It’s OK to miss what we once had, but you don’t have to miss me. Many things may have changed, but my love for you never will.
I’ll always be waiting for you at the front door when you get home. I’ll always let you put me in a silly Halloween costume, because I love the way you smile when you see me dressed as a pirate.
I’ll always warn you when the kids are doing something they shouldn’t, like climbing on the bookshelves. I’ll always go on trips with you, and I’ll always pretend like I’m happy going to my friend’s house for a few days when you can’t take me on those trips. I’ll always be patient and wait for my dinner, because I know you have to take care of the kids first.
I’ll always sleep right next to you, even if I have to sleep on the floor because I can’t get up into the bed anymore. I’ll always follow you from room to room, just in case something happens and you need me.
I’ll always be here. I’ll always protect you.
And I’ll always think you are the best, even if you feel you are at your worst.