The best present I’ve ever received
Reprinted from the Bellevue Reporter, December 12, 2013.
By Lisa Carlson
I lost my beloved canine friend two years ago. He was a spunky cocker spaniel named for baseball’s greatest player, Griffey. He was with me as Ken Griffey Jr. hit home runs during both of his Seattle Mariners careers.
When I received my new puppy as a gift for childbirth, I had no way of knowing how deeply I’d feel his loss when it was time to say goodbye. My husband delivered him to me, all eight weeks of him, the day after Christmas 1997. I had a 2-year-old, a newborn baby — and now a puppy. This would be a good place to mention I had no fenced yard or nanny.
Griffey urinated indoors and chewed everything in sight. Carpets, shoes and baby toys were special favorites. Nothing was off limits. He had a shockingly aggressive alpha streak where he barked madly at dogs who towered over him (pit bulls or Dobermans — the bigger the better!). Every time he got on the leash he went agro at other dogs, but he was calm and well-behaved off-leash. He liked to chase cars, too. Nice.
Soon we moved to a bigger house we stretched to afford, and the first home improvement we authorized was a fenced yard. I would check the yard daily (between feeding my baby and changing diapers) to fill in holes he tunneled through. There were many days I stayed home with my two toddlers and dropped Griffey at the doggy daycare.
Somewhere after the one-year mark his health issues began. He had four eye surgeries (eventually both eyes removed for glaucoma), two ear surgeries (one ear removed), dental surgery and ongoing skin issues. The dog naturopath (I’m seriously not kidding) gave me a recipe for home cooked dog food that he swore would improve his skin and coat. It seemed dear Griffey was allergic to “pedestrian” dog food.
I looked at him like he’d lost his mind. I could barely get food on the table for my family, let alone cook Griffey two meals a day. Well, sometimes it does take a village. My sweet mother-in-law stepped in and started cooking for Griffey. She stirred mountains of original pet food over nearly 10 years. There were definitely weeks he ate better than we did.
He suffered many painful health setbacks and he never complained. He was always thrilled to greet me, to prance on his walks (which got shorter as the surgery list got longer), and to scarf down organic biscuits like he’d never had a meal before. As he lost his sight and hearing his nose only got more discerning.
His favorite indulgence in his senior years was consistent – a grand slam breakfast. So that week, before he made his final journey to the vet’s office, I flipped him pancakes.
I told my husband once that the iPad he got me for mother’s day was his best present. That iPad will never make me pull out my hair in crazed frustration, take a midnight walk in hopes of settling down a belligerent animal, wake a sleeping baby, or knock dishes off the fully set dining room table.
My best gift was one that stared me awake with his big brown eyes, stole food from my plate and embarrassingly jumped on every hiker on the trail. Griffey was by far the best present I’ve ever received. Fourteen years of devotion — and that was me devoted to him.
I know he is in doggy heaven with two good eyes, two good ears and chasing rabbits and cats until he collapses in exhaustion. I remember this when my heart hurts the most.
Rest in peace dear friend.
Lisa Carlson resides in Bellevue.