Lies my dog and I told each other

Daryn Kagan, columnist

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Daryn Kagan, columnist

What can I say?

I lied to my dog.

Each day for almost 17 years I declared, “You are the smartest! The prettiest! The most clever! Best dog ever.”

Well, the day she ate the stuffing out of my neighbor’s antique chair, I might’ve had a few other choice words.

Still, I bet that day, any day, really, she heard me. Smartest. Prettiest. Best.

Was it a lie?

Indeed, it was.

Darla would never win Westminster. She never earned a cover on Dog Fancy. She had not a single trick to land her on David Letterman’s “Stupid Pet Tricks.”

“I get it,” you say. “She was the best dog ever because she was yours.”

No, not because she was mine.

Rather, simply,

Because I was hers.

This, Dear Dog Loving Reader, I know you understand: That I was hers. For 16 3/4 years.

Through men who no longer wanted to date me.

Employers who no longer had use for me.

Dressed up for a fancy party, or dressed down in flannel jammies and dirty hair, no matter. I was hers.

It was true from that moment in 2000 when she waddled her fat 6-week-old pink puppy belly over my way at the Humane Society.

“You are mine,” she said. “We can do this.”

It was the first truth she told me.

Fast forward to last week. As time does. More than 16 years feeling like a single day. Darla’s decline long and slow. Shaky back legs. Getting stuck in the doggie door in the middle of the night. Twice. In the same night.

“We can do this,” she said, proving it by gobbling up a huge plate of food.

I realize now, this was the first time my dog lied to me. It was taking every ounce left in her fragile body to do it. Herculean efforts to stand up from her bed. Falling down, not able to get back up by herself.

I snuggled down for our billionth love-fest talk. I peered into those chocolate brown eyes seeing she had no intention of holding back.

“I can keep doing this. I can hang around. I will be happy about it. It’s how I want to live. I’m not tired, oh so tired. I can keep telling you that each day. And, and … it would be a lie.”

Before I could protest, how I can’t, I won’t, I couldn’t, she cut me off.

“You can do this,” she said. “It’s part of what you agreed to that day I made you mine.”

And so I have.

Let her go.

I could tell you it was easy.

That I don’t think of her every moment of the day.

I could tell you I haven’t cried more tears for her than for some humans who have passed this year.

It would be one big fat lie.

Darla would expect so much more.

So, I won’t.

For I am hers.

Forever.

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