Before I got married, before I became a stepmom, and before my son was even a thought, I was a (crazy) dog mom.
When you’re 20 and in college, a pet might not seem like the best choice. But I thought, “Why not?” I knew lots of students at my New Orleans school with dogs who still had social lives and went to class. Maybe it was a post-Katrina YOLO choice, but I don’t regret it at all.
I scoured Petfinder.com and the NOLA.com classifieds, and at the end of my junior year I found him. The ad showed a special needs black and white male shih tzu.
I knew he had to be mine.
He was even discounted due to his “disability,” AKA, his straight/gimpy back leg. He essentially lived with a peg leg. I remember meeting the breeder at a gas station just over the Mississippi border, and she told me he had never been outside. She held him like a baby — and he loved being held that way until his last day. He was named after the “Garfield” character because of his smile. He loved the outdoors. His spirit animal was a sloth.
Leading up to Odie crossing the rainbow bridge, I had a Carrie Bradshaw thought. When you’re 20 and get a dog, do you really think about who you will be in 10 years or who your dog will be? Odie became a brother (when I added another dog, Abita, to my family a year later) and remained an important part of my life for 13 and a half years. He road-tripped from Louisiana to Massachusetts with me, lived in six homes with me, and went everywhere I could take him.
And Odie became a part of a family with kids.
This was a big milestone, because my new stepkids (who were 5 at the time) had never had a dog. Though Odie and Abita were regular-size dogs, the kids had been traumatized by a large dog when they were toddlers.
They had to get used to the dogs as the dogs did them. My husband and I recall them both running away from Abita (who was four pounds) because she was the more curious and energetic of the two. Odie, however, had a calm (or lazy) temperament that was perfect for reacclimating them with dogs. Even with our toddler son, he just let him sit nearby, petting him, trying to pick him up.
When we noticed Odie was really declining, we had to talk with the kids about what was happening. He was uncomfortable in his own skin. He had lost his sight. And he was barking more.
On my birthday, we went out as a family to a park. We all got to spend a few final moments with him before he left us.
Today is the first day I’ll come home from work without him there to greet me.
Though it’s very sad and very quiet in our home, we know Odie is at peace, laying in the sun and watching over us.