Do you have pets? I recently discovered this little factoid: Kids who live with dogs and cats are less likely to develop allergies in adulthood. These findings echo the official position of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology that “early exposure to animals (cats and dogs in particular) may actually protect children from developing [asthma and allergies].” So add one more thing to the many gifts that our dogs have given us: Three allergy-free kids.
Here’s what I’ll always remember about Sugar: She always smiled. She always loved. And, apparently, she gave my kids strong immune systems, to boot. We’ve always rescued our pets. Our little dog, Foxy, is 12-years-old and still going strong, despite a health scare earlier this year. But Sugar, who was with us from the first days of our marriage, and saw us through three babies and three houses, died a few years ago at 17.
She always smiled, that dog. Just happy to be alive. In that last year, she became blind, deaf, immobile and incontinent. We had to lift her hips up to walk, and she was really getting around by smell. But the smile! Always smiling. Always happy to see us. Always happy to be here.
Three days before she died, she lay down and didn’t get up. Her hips just went out. We tried to lift her, but she’d just collapse. She still would smile when she saw me, but most of the time she just looked confused. Her eyes got redder and redder. Her breathing was heavy. It was the first time I’d experienced death, firsthand.
I spent the first night thinking she would die, and so I slept next to her on the floor, with my hand on her head. The next day she was in the same place, and the next night. She didn’t take any water or food—not even her favorites, turkey or dog cookies or peanut butter. She was just tired, I think. And so we called the vet.
On that last day, I held her head in my hands. I put my head next to hers. I whispered to her all the wonderful things she had done for us in the last 15 years. I told her how much I loved her, how much we all love her. And I listened as her breathing got shallower, and shallower, and then stopped.
I still miss her. I’m still mourning her. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop.
Here’s what I’ll always remember about Sugar: She always smiled. She always loved. And, apparently, she gave my kids strong immune systems, to boot.