Eleven years ago, our family of five snuggled on the couch for a movie night.
It was probably a VHS and I'm sure there was pizza involved.
The movie, My Dog Skip, was a solemn tribute to a boy and his dog.
I wept through the entire thing. It wasn't my love for animals that sparked this sob fest, but rather the circumstances surrounding me at the time.
My oldest was tackling second grade, while my younger two children kept me busy. All. Day.
Add to that, my father was dying.
I can only say those words now, eleven years out, because I know the ending. At the time, I was in deep denial that my father was preparing to leave this earth and that worked well for me. Not even a cancer diagnosis could convince me. Nonetheless, I was an emotional wreck. I was consumed by questions of making the right decisions for my kids, while also stressing about soccer, dance lessons, t-ball, and gymnastics.
The longer I stayed in crazy, busy mode, the less I would have to think about what was really happening. Until, I sat in a quiet room, with my husband and kids and watched a movie. A movie about a young boy and his loyal dog.
By the end of the movie, my husband and kids seemed unchanged and sorted through the borrowed VHS tapes to decide what to watch next. I dried my eyes and proclaimed. "The kids need a dog!" My husband looked confused by the sudden outburst. "Okay."
I, then, began a ten minute tirade about how we were never allowed to have a dog when we were kids and the one we did have we had to give away and our kids aren't getting any younger and this is the time and every kid should know what it's like to have a.."
"I said okay." My husband, suddenly the calm.
The dust settled, another movie was played and we never spoke of it again. Until, a few months later.
It was the fall of 2006, the start of another school year, and now there two little ones on the bus waving goodbye.
My husband brought home the classified section of the newspaper and called the phone number he had circled. He spoke to a man about a dog and a few days later, we found ourelves on a farm, choosing a puppy. Like a scene from an old movie, the owner slid back the barn door and out bounced four Labrador puppies followed by their nonchalant mom. The chocolate one was spoken for, the yellow one had an odd growth on its head, and the runt was well, the runt. That left the most beautiful black puppy, with a white patch below his neck, that resembled his mom.
We scooped him up and headed home. I held him in my lap for the whole ride, this puppy that I insisted we get for the kids.
Turns out, caring for another living creature, though a daunting thing to add to my already full to-do list, was just the distraction I needed.
We had him crate trained in no time, and anxiously awaited the nightmarish puppy phase where everything gets chewed up and peed on.
But it never came.
Instead, he blended in and became a silent observer to the craziness of our house.
Over time, he claimed his own spot where he would lay. In the summer time, he enjoyed beefy treats from the grill. And he would politely greet anyone who visited, offering his head toward their hand for petting.
At family gatherings, he would position himself next to the person who fed him the most table scraps at the last event. He wouldn't beg, but he would wait.
Over the last few months, he quietly grew sick, without us noticing. Maybe, I did start to notice changes, but I think we have concluded denial is kind of my thing. And then one cold weekend in March, after a quick trip to the vet for a diagnosis, we were delivered news we hadn't prepared for. And just like that, our dog, Shane was gone.