There are only two times I can remember Pogo ever needing me. She was the most independent creature I ever knew, and looking back now, I can see just how alike we were.
They say that dogs resemble their owners, and while Pogo and I didn’t share any physical characteristics, emotionally we were almost one in the same. I couldn’t see that, though, until I started writing this post, so let me back up a smidge.How I came to have Pogo is a story of its own and it’s strange to think I wrote it just about a year ago. In short, I got Pogo when I was a junior in college. I was 19 and just fell in love with her on an impromptu trip to a pet store. It wasn’t ideal, but I couldn’t live without her, and while she lived a grand life, the first few years were HARD. For both of us. I worked 14+ hour days with little energy to to anything afterwards, lived in small apartments, and spent my free time selfishly.
So Pogo learned to be independent. I didn’t think it was something I taught her, but in reflecting, it absolutely was. It was how we learned to live with one another. Aside from the basic needs of food and water, she didn’t really ever need anything. We were both a little rough around the edges, independent to a fault, and determined not to let anyone in.
For her, there are two times she needed me… really needed me. The first was the time I dislocated her jaw and the second was the day that she died.
When Pogo was a puppy I broke my foot and ended up in a cast and on crutches for a while. Did I mention the first few years were really hard? Regardless, I ventured out to the park nearby to my first apartment on a warm, spring afternoon, softball bat and balls in hand. Picture me, crutches aside and balancing in a cast, hitting tennis balls to my beloved pup. It was her best day ever.
Until she jumped up to catch the ball that I just tossed into the air to hit.
I still cringe thinking about it. And how she ended up with no chipped, cracked, or even lost teeth is totally beyond me.
I connected bat-to-mouth right where the ball would have been and dislocated her jaw. She dropped back down on all fours in an open-mouthed scream. The look in her eyes is burned into my brain as she immediately came to me (and mind you she was not one to come EVER). I was immediately on the ground in tears, not sure what to do … especially in my handicapped state… and just opened my arms to her. She came right into them and curled up against me.
The moment she hit my body her jaw popped perfectly back into place and her screams stopped.
Now, in truth, the moment it popped back into place, she was off and running and proceeded to run away across a main street. It took 30 minutes of driving around and bribing her back with leftover ice in a Taco Bell cup to get her back in the truck and home again. It was the last time we went to an unfenced park to play.
It was also the last time we ever played fetch with a bat. The ball was more than fine.
Our adventures were endless. We visited home in Michigan, chased deer in Montana, lived on a ranch in Colorado, watched the ocean in California, and soaked up the sun in Indiana.
And these are just the states we lived in.
She traveled to Virginia, Oklahoma, Idaho, Washington, and just about everywhere in between. She roamed free across national park land, ‘swam’ in rivers, summited mountains, dipped her toes in the ocean, ate endless sand and snow, and enjoyed all the belly rubs from her favorite people on earth. She was well-loved and loved hard in return. She may have only met you once, but if she loved you, she showed it when you met again.
She had human-like traits that pulled on my heart strings. She sat in the front seat looking out the window with her elbow on the console. She liked to sleep with her head on the pillow. She would carry on conversations with you, thought all food was for her, adored the blow dryer, and her eyebrows could communicate any emotion she was feeling.
She wasn’t perfect, though. She ran away regularly, liked to roll in animal poop, growled and barked at you if you touched her with your feet while she was trying to sleep, barfed a lot, hated other dogs, and barked ferociously at delivery people. But I’d take all the bad all day long if she was still here even for one more day.
It was last summer that we found out she had cancer.
It all happened really fast. She had her spleen removed, they confirmed the cancer, and they gave her 4-5 months to live. We spent the next few weeks fawning over her – making every day her new favorite day. We say in kayaks in the garage and ate cake, laid in the grass in the sun in the backyard until our skin itched so bad we couldn’t stand it, split the bacon three-ways, and gave her as much EOS lip balm as she wanted. We let her drink from the bathtub, spent lots of time basking in the warm breeze from the blow dryer, and hiked in the park daily.
It was a month later after her prognosis that she really needed me again. In looking through photos, she must’ve known what was happening to her. She stayed close by me last summer… even before her diagnosis. She was patient and gentle with me, leaned on me a little bit heavier, sat a little closer, and checked up on me regularly.
On the last day of Pogo’s beautiful life of almost ten years, I took photos of her and I. They’re not good photos, but I was testing out a photo booth backdrop and wanted a buddy. She humored me and I bribed her. It was a perfect example of our almost-ten years spent together and they are photos that I will cherish for a lifetime.
Late that evening, as we came home from kayaking on the reservoir, I noticed something was wrong… again. She was waiting for us pressed against the door. She looked disoriented and was having a hard time walking. I took her out back and she didn’t want to leave the deck. So I pulled her up on the couch, feeling a heaviness in my heart, but hoping for a few more days. I immediately felt overwhelming guilt for having gone kayaking, for taking a road trip that summer, for having made her take photos with me, …for all the things in her life that weren’t perfect. I still struggle with this and probably will for a long time to come.
But there’s no way to know and cancer sucks.
So as I helped her over to her water bowl to get a drink before heading upstairs for the evening, it happened. She turned around to come back towards me and two steps in were the last steps she took. She lost control of her body from her middle down and collapsed in the middle of the room. The look in her eyes was the same from the day at the park.
I held her that night until the last breath she took and will continue to hold onto her in my heart. She was my best friend, my first dog, my companion, and she saw me through some of the hardest and most beautiful moments of my life so far.
My twenties were a lot about finding myself. I was independent, kept a thick outer shell, was stubborn, and put myself first a lot, and Pogo mimicked me in many of these qualities. I learned more in those 10 years than I can even begin to express out loud and as my twenties come to a close, it only seems fitting that I write this now. I look forward to these next ten years and plan to fill my thirties with lessons learned with Pogo.
She really was my best friend. She saw me at my best and most certainly saw me at my worst. She was there alongside me as I became… well,…me.
So to Pogo, the most beautiful creature I’ve ever known, thank you from the bottom of my heart for the lifetime of joy you have already given me.
casey and her camera is an Indianapolis Photographer specializing in couple, lifestyle, senior, wedding and family photography for Indianapolis, Indiana and the surrounding areas.