I was born into a dog family. Within the first day of my life, I had already been licked by a dog (and probably fallen in love). Kona was the name of my family’s dog at the time, and I grew up with her. She was a part of the family even before I was.
By the time I was in middle school, Kona was old. She would fall down often, she couldn’t stand up on her own, and she wore diapers because she often lost control of herself. I knew she couldn’t go on suffering like that forever, and that was when it first hit me that I would someday have to live my life without her.
We made the decision to put her down when she was about 18 years old—a very long life for a lab/dalmation mix, but it was still not nearly long enough. The pain of losing her was intolerable, and every time I would see one of her hairs on the couch, or our other dog Buster (her best friend for years) sniffing around for her, my heart would break and the feeling of emptiness would return.
After that day, she wasn’t there to greet me when I came home; when I looked at her bed, she was never laying in it; and I never received another face-lick from the friend I had lived with my whole life.
Buster was put down two years ago, and the same unbearable pain returned. And even now when I think about Kona and Buster, I cry.
That’s the torture in being a pet-owner. Sometimes I don’t know if I will be able to survive going through that experience again. But I won’t stop adopting dogs in my life, because the torture is somehow worth it.
I try not to think about the future without Coco and Luna, my current pups, and just enjoy the time I get to spend with them. But I know years from now, I’ll feel that same suffering. And even knowing that, I’m going to walk into an animal shelter and start the process all over again; it’s only because dogs are so special that they leave behind so much pain when they go.