Every family has their own unique traditions. One of ours was watching the Westminster Dog Show. Growing up in our house my mom did a good job of making sure we all sat down to a family dinner. One of the important rules of family dinner was there was no television. However, there was an exception that was was made for the two days out of the year when the Westminster Dog Show was on. We all looked forward to it and we loved it. As kids my brother, sister and I were glued to the television watching and learning about all of the categories and types of the dogs. We would all pick favorites and predict who we thought would win best in show.
When you are a kid and something is a big deal in your house, you naturally believe that everybody else is doing the same thing. The dog show in our house was bigger than the Super Bowl or the Oscars. So when my sister was a college freshman and the Westminster Dog Show began, she called me and laughed about how almost no one else in school knew about it. It just one of those family traditions. We all grew up loving dogs and my siblings and I are all dog owners. My parents have a labrador named Allie, my sister has a French bulldog named Eloise, My brother has two dachshunds named Beau and Olivia and I have a West Highland terrier “Westie” named Emmy.
If you too have had a special animal then you understand how somewhere along the way they become more like a family member than a pet. Emmy has been with me since I graduated from college fifteen years ago. Once I had a place of my own, I knew I wanted a dog. I had done some looking into different types of dogs and I thought a Westie would be a great fit. My mom happened to know someone who was head of a local Westie club and when I called her she had a nine month old puppy who was looking for a home. Emmy was playful, sweet and all kinds of fun. Like a good terrier, she has an independent and tenacious spirit, which made her a perfect match for me.
I had Emmy for a few months before I started dating my husband. The first time he came over to my place for dinner Emmy was not so sure about him. After we ate we went to watch television together and Emmy let it be known that he was taking her spot on the couch. She looked at him and gave a little growl. Then when he tried to move her, she peed on him I was a little embarrassed, but he took it in stride. My husband has a good sense of humor and it turns out that his family had a beloved Westie as well, so he wasn’t too bothered about it. My husband quickly won Emmy over and they became good friends.
People say that dogs or pets in general are lots of work, but the truth is that I have never really seen it as work. Emmy is an easygoing dog. As long as she isn’t getting groomed, she is generally up for whatever adventure or project I am into. Taking care of her is just part of loving her. Over the years Emmy has given me so much joy and loving her has taught me more than I could have imagined.
First, Emmy knows how to live in the moment. She can happily clear a low lying coffee table spread of appetizers in seconds. Her short stature is the only thing that keeps food safe in our house. Emmy can find joy in small things like a great meal, sunbathing on a pretty day or just making the rounds to get petted. Sometimes these things might seem small but when you add them all up they become something bigger. It’s that attitude of finding happiness in the small things that is important and Emmy is a master at finding joy.
Second, Emmy has never met a stranger, in fact because of her I have met more neighbors than I would have otherwise. Although she has slowed down a bit with age, Emmy is a master escape artist. At our old house we had to make multiple revisions to our gates and fence to keep her from getting out. Every escape and trip around the neighborhood caused us to meet more people. I remember one Thanksgiving when Emmy got out and we were looking for her. My husband and I split up to canvas the neighborhood. I was beginning to get worried and I was talking to a neighbor a few blocks away when up pulls my husband with Emmy sitting in the front seat of his car. Her head was out the window and she looked happy as could be. Her tongue was still panting from her tour of the neighborhood. Emmy was just making the rounds to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, while taking in the glorious smell of the neighborhood turkey fryers. No one is ever a stranger to Emmy just a new friend.
However, the most important thing I have learned from Emmy is the power of presence. One of my shortcomings as a human is that sometimes I feel like I have to have the right words or know just what to do when something sad or hard happens. The truth is sometimes there isn’t anything good to say and just being there is the most important thing. When we moved my oldest daughter had a hard time adjusting to all the change. Starting a new preschool was difficult and somewhere along the way Emmy became a good friend to her. If you ask her she will tell you Emmy is one of her best friends. When your with Emmy you don’t have to worry about what she thinks or about impressing her. She wags her tail and looks up at you with her kind eyes and you know you’re loved. There is just something about being with her that always smooths the edges of a tough day. That’s the gift of being loyal and present for someone and that’s the great thing I have learned from Emmy.
Emmy suddenly became very ill two weeks ago which caused her to go into advanced kidney failure. So for the first time I have had to begin to think about saying goodbye to her. As I write this Emmy is back home with me in our living room. She is weak and her days are numbered but you can tell that she is happy to be home. When we were on our way to the animal hospital to care for Emmy, my four year old was in the back seat and suddenly out of the blue she says “Mommy, I know you are sad but I wish we could be happy.” Oh the wisdom in those words, she is right even now there is much to be happy about. Emmy has given us so much love and so many stories to share and laugh about. So as I try to teach my girls about saying bye for now my heart is a little lighter writing about all of the fun and joy we have had along the way. The truth about great dogs is they never really leave you because their story becomes a part of yours and in that way they live on.