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I feel a slight change of pace is needed to explain my absence and offer comfort to those that have faced the same thing as I have in the last few months. What happened can be summed up in a single sentence.

My dog died.

An outtake from my senior pictures

An outtake from my senior pictures

What cannot be put into words is the grief that accompanies such a thing. Some people get it, others don’t. There are people in this world that view pets as laborers or there to serve a purpose and there are those that view them as a member of the family.

I was raised with the belief that your pets are valued additions to the family. We’ve loved all of our dogs with all our hearts, even our bulldog, Jackson, (who was a known psychopath), and we’ve spoiled them senselessly. It seems each one of our dogs has had a connection with one of the members of my family. My mom’s baby was Clyde, our boxer we lost in the early 2000s. My brother was distraught when we had to put Jackson down because he was barely functioning and never left his bed. My dad is attached to Kitty, our teacup yorkie. And me? My little Jules, our rescued shih tzu we had for a little over six years, was my best friend.

On November 11, 2014, I had to say goodbye.

We got Jules in 2008 as an accident of sorts. Before her, we had a two-dog rule. Jackson and Kitty were on good terms which was strange for our sausage-with-legs bulldog and our smaller than a high-heel yorkie.

My mother is the type to have everything meticulously planned, especially if it’s something we’ll be dealing with for a while. Jackson hadn’t been doing great. Bulldogs are considered lucky if they make it to eight and he was just passed seven. So my mom decided it was time to start thinking about what type of dog we wanted next. She knew she wanted to rescue a dog. She opted for a shih zu and began looking for rescues in Michigan and that’s where Peke-A-Tzu Rescue came in. She found the rescue just outside Grand Rapids and made a fatal mistake.

Well, it was either fatal or perfect: she clicked on Available Dogs.

I think she wanted an idea of what type of dogs were at the rescue. What types of handicaps are common? What’s the average age? Are there many shih tzu’s or is it mostly Pekinese?

It was then she came across this face.

The photo Peke-A-Tzu Rescue posted of Jules under "Available Dogs"

The photo Peke-A-Tzu Rescue posted of Jules under “Available Dogs”

Not knowing what to do about the eight-year-old little retired breeder, I remember my mom asking us if we should wait or if we should apply for her now. The consensus was basically do what you want. I told her if she waits, there’s a strong chance Juliana wouldn’t be there (for the record, waiting meant wait until Jackson passes which didn’t happen until 2013). The lengthy and intrusive application along with our three references were submitted and two weeks later, my parents and I were driving to the Grand Rapids area to pick up our new 12 pound baby girl.

Kitty was furious and Jackson held a stance that can only be described as, “Seriously?” Jackson never warmed up to Juliana, who I only ever called Jules after the first two years we had her, and Kitty became her best friend.

The first year proved a bit difficult at times. She didn’t like boys. I think it stemmed from her time in a puppy mill. My dad being the patient man he is spent that first year feeding her small bits of ham and Cheetos to get her to warm up to him. He reached girl-status eventually but my brother was forever a stinking boy. When we first brought her home, we thought she couldn’t bark. She was quiet, most likely from her being in a new place and trying to get a feel for it. When my brother came home from work one day and was kneeling by the front door to pet Kitty, we heard a strange noise. It sounded like a bourbon-drinking chain smoker had just tried to shout at the kids crossing their lawn.

It was Jules. Her bark was like an old lady that spent too much time with a cigarette in her mouth and drank whiskey like it was water. She may have looked cute but she was protective and she never stopped barking or huffing at my brother. She always made her displeasure of his presence known.

She became my shadow. At first, it was her fear of abandonment. You couldn’t let her outside to let her do her business because she would stand at the back door and cry thinking she was being left for good. She didn’t like waking up in an empty room and would promptly go in search for the nearest human and we couldn’t bring her to apple orchards because the animal’s cages sent her into a frenzy of panting, pushing, crying and clutching. She had spent so much time in a cage that the sight of one scared her.

The years that followed were nothing short of amusing, loving and above all amazing. She slowly lost her vision but didn’t care because she had memorized the house. Every time she ran into a wall, she’d bounce back and huff at it as if it were the wall’s fault for being there. She kept prancing the way only a shih tzu can. She snuggled the way only a rescue knows how.

On a night of extreme strength or weakness, I’m not really sure which it was, I sent my mom an email telling her it was time to let go of Jules. I sent the email because anytime my parents would bring up how Jules was in bad shape I would lose control of myself. Whenever you’re threatened with loosing your rock you have uncontrollable reactions.

Bringing her to the vet’s office was one of the worst car rides of my life because I knew I wouldn’t be bringing her back with me. What was worse? Standing in the small room and holding onto her for dear life as they gave her something to relax. Even worse? Jules gave me a few last kisses which was something she rarely did. She comforted me when I felt I should have comforted her. I held on as long I as could and when I had to lay her down in her last moments, I felt like I couldn’t breath.

Taken during a quick nap before class, Spring 2013.

Taken during a quick nap before class, Spring 2013.

After, I was given a moment with her by myself and the hardest part was walking out of the room. Looking back, I don’t think it was because I was leaving without her but because I was leaving her alone. It was her greatest fear and all I could think to do was leave the door cracked open as I walked out so she wouldn’t feel confined.

It was weird walking up to my room that night without her. It felt empty in my bed that night and every night since. I’ve felt like I’ve been skipping part of my morning routine because I’m not taking her out and getting her set for the day. Most of all, it feels wrong talking about her in the past tense.

It’s not wrong to be so effected by losing your pet. It’s like losing a family member; you don’t get over it but you learn to live with it.

Taking in a rescue dog is the greatest decision a person could ever make. Sure, the time you get with your pet is shorter but the six years I had with Jules could never be traded.

My dad put it best; she wasn’t my dog, I was her human.

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For more information on adoption please visit Aspca.com or to donate please visit the ASPCA’s donation page.