Five years ago today you burst into our lives. It’s hard to believe it’s been (only!) five years because I can’t image our lives without you. You’ve been a part of us forever, but today you get extra ice cream because today commemorates the day we found you.
See that picture? That was your snapshot on the shelter website. You were really, really fat, which I’m sure was the happiest time of your life! Before that, you were skin and bones. Your foster mama allowed you free access to food, so you ballooned up to 82 pounds. (You’re now a healthy 65.) But that set you – and us – up for a lifetime of you trying to eat every. single. thing.
In fact, the first year we had you, after a Super Bowl party, John and I went out to get breakfast. When we returned home, you had miraculously, inexplicably removed a stack of bowls from the sink, carried them still stacked to your bed, and licked all the dip off all the bowls. To this day, we still don’t understand how you accomplished that feat.
So much has changed since that first year. Honestly, we had no idea what we were doing. But you have been so even, so calm, so patient with us since the very first day. We kept you busy with walks, training classes, play dates, even a doggy birthday party with all your pup friends from the park. You had a stuffed bear named Rupert that you took with you everywhere, even to the park and to play with on the roof deck of our building. Through it all, though, you hated being alone. Even for a minute for us to get the mail. You’d cry, bark, claw at the door… until we decided to get you a buddy, and Lucas came home.
At first you were miffed. But Lucas worshiped you – and still does! We fell into a routine of walks, training, playing, and snuggling. You guys went on vacations with us, to visit our family in Maryland, and even halfway across the country to visit more family.
When we moved to Indiana in 2008, I found the therapy dog program, and I knew it was perfect for you. You have the perfect personality for the work – you’re confident, outgoing, friendly, and a bottomless pit of need, so you let anyone and everyone snuggle you. The training was a lot harder than I thought it would be, but we got through it, and you’ve been happily working every since. I’m so proud of you, Emmett. I can take you anywhere from the county fair to a mental health facility to the public library, and nothing fazes you – as long as there are people around to shower you with attention. You’ve met literally hundreds of people, brought all of them a smile and a wag, and not a visit goes by that I don’t stand back in awe of the way you navigate the world with such positive, happy energy.
When you were diagnosed with cancer, Em, my whole world crumbled. I honestly can’t imagine our lives without your waggly tail, without having to clean off all the counter tops before we leave the house, without your 65-pound body perched on my lap as I try to read a novel over your head. It was so hard on us trying to figure out what to do. Through it all, though, you were amazing. I shouldn’t be surprised, of course, but you handled blood draws, x-rays, exams, medicine, surgeries, everything that we threw at you perfectly. At the veterinary oncologist, the techs loved when you had your appointments. They gushed and fussed over you because you were the only dog – ever – who jumped onto the exam table on your own and lifted your front leg on your own for them to examine. You can’t fool me, Emmett. I know that as soon as you realized that that little move would get them to all come kiss and hug and treat you, you kept repeating it. You’re smart and sneaky like that.
You’re now two years cancer-free. Your oncologist says you’re in remission! Every time I think about that, I want to sob with such utter relief and gratitude.
To be honest, Emmett, I started and stopped this letter half a dozen times. I don’t know how to say all the things you are for our little family. You’ve been a friend and a role model for Lucas, and now you’ve taken on a different role with Cooper. Something like a father-figure, but you’re protective and instructive and tolerant of his shenanigans, and he prances around trying to do what you do and be like you. I couldn’t have crafted a better example for him.
You’re my best friend, my companion. You’re silly – once you find a behavior that makes us laugh, you repeat it over and over and over again. You give Lucas confidence, and you mentor Cooper. You make a lot of kids happy every week, and you make me and John happy every day.
Five years ago today, you woke up for the last time in a shelter. Five years ago today, you changed our lives in a million little ways and a few really big ways. We tied our hearts to yours, Emmett, and you’ve given back to us more than you would ever be able to understand.
I love you, Emmett. Happy anniversary!