Happy eighth birthday! In dog years, that makes you forty-five and my wise elder, which suggests that perhaps you should be writing a letter to me. Since you have no opposable thumbs, though, I’ll continue.
It has recently come to my attention that you won’t be here forever. The gray hairs sprouting above your eyes are one clue, but it’s something Riley said a few weeks ago that really got me thinking (and, of course, worrying) about it. He said, “Mommy, when I grow up I will take care of Harry.”
This touching declaration of love and friendship (from an almost four-year-old) made me a very Proud Mama. It also made me cry on and off for the rest of the day because, my Harry-Barry/Bo-Berry/H-to-the-Berry, you won’t be here when Riley is grown up. (If you read my last post – the one about how death scares the bejesus out of me – you’ll understand why I’m going to change the subject now…and clean out the cabinet under the kitchen sink when I’m done here.)
I simply want to thank you being in my life.
I’ll never forget how little you were when we first met you.
For weeks, I feared I would sit on you or roll over on top of you in my sleep (because even though I didn’t want you to sleep in my bed, you weren’t going to have it any other way.)
I’ll always cherish how you instantly loved Dylan when he came into our lives and how you treated him just like a little brother, sibling rivalry and all!
I remember when you slept with your head on my belly when you knew I was pregnant with Riley (before I did), and I’m grateful for the grace with which you welcomed him into our home when you knew full well that it meant you’d receive even less attention (if that was possible).
You let me embarrass you.
This is from a Father’s Day card photo shoot (from before we had human children and we had nothing better to do than put a neck tie on our dog and force him to pose for pictures).
You let me dress you in a bee costume for Halloween.
Year after year after year.
You even let me put you in an argyle sweater (dry clean only!) once in a while.
(It was cold.)
To say you prepared me for motherhood is an understatement.
You taught me responsibility. After about a week of being your Mama, I secretly wished I could give you back. (Sorry.) Taking care of you was so much harder than I imagined! (If it makes you feel any better, now you’re the easy one.)
You taught me that love is in the details. Do you know that I can make you fall asleep just by rubbing your front legs?
You also taught me forgiveness. After that terrifying fall, you came back into my arms.
You taught me how to
handle a crisis panic. Like the time you had a bone lodged in your throat blocking your breathing and I had to race you to the vet (through two school zones!) to have it removed. Or the time when you ate a rib bone and an x-ray revealed that you had dozens of bone shards traveling through your digestive tract. Or the time when you vomited from anesthesia (when you were neutered) (sorry) and – surprise! – dozens of unchewed, whole Greenies came flying out of your mouth. If it’s true that every family has an “emergency room” kid, you are definitely mine.
The apple certainly doesn’t fall far from the tree. Like me, your skin is sensitive and you suffer from anxiety. And like your brothers, you occasionally torture me with your picky eating (what kind of dog turns down ground beef?) and persnickety personality. Like yesterday when I presented you with your birthday present – a soft, cozy new bed handpicked especially for you – and you weren’t all that impressed.
If you could talk, you would’ve said (just like your brothers), “What else did you get me?”
Still not diggin’ it.
This was just to spite me, right?
Eventually, you embraced it.
I think you love it, actually, but I respect your stubbornness. (You get that from me, too.) And at the end of the night, I’m glad you decided to cuddle with Mike and me in our bed, which is exactly where you belong.
Happy Birthday, Harry. Wishing you many, many more!