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It’s Just a Dog

By Rachel Thexton

I lost my 16-year-old best friend this week. As his heart stopped peacefully while
Ray Charles played on the vet office computer in a dimly lit room designed for
these kinds of moments, my heart stopped too. Grief, huge and overbearing,
rose through me from my feet to the top of my head and I knelt over in pain,

I looked at my best friend as he lay looking the same as he does when sleepy,
his black and brown coat still shiny and his eyes open but vacant with a different
kind of sleep. The veterinarian asked if I wanted more time to be with my boy
before they took him away, but I declined. He was no longer in the room.
His little 12-pound chihuahua/terrier body remained but the boy I knew who
would race circles at top speed in fields, or lick my face compulsively if I cried,
was somewhere else. Where? I did not know. I only knew that he had left an
empty space at my feet where he followed every step that I took for sixteen
years, two months, and eleven days.

Bandit was a gentle, lively, and lovable dog who came with me everywhere. He
often sat in his bag in boardrooms while I met with clients, lay underneath the
seat in front of me in airplanes when I traveled to another city, and jumped up on
to the hotel bed with enthusiasm when we stayed somewhere new for the night.
If I went to the bathroom and closed the door, he would scratch the door until he
was let in. I quickly learned that it was easier, and quieter, to simply bring him
with me into every room I went, never closing the door behind me.

At night, he burrowed under the covers along the side of my legs, and as the sun
rose, he would come up from the blankets and cuddle next to my chest, where no
matter how my heart beat that day, his warm body sat still and constant next to it.
I always knew that he was a dog and that I would outlive him. I was told that his life
expectancy was closer to twelve years but I knew that he would prove that
estimate wrong. Bandit was once hit by a fast-driving car in our residential
neighborhood after running off after another dog. The car fled and I raced him to
an emergency clinic, convinced that he was hurt terribly. He left the clinic with
only a couple of small scratches on his paws.

He was my wingman and my constant and not even a careless racing driver would take him from his role as my boy.

We used to call him Houdini as he had the ability to escape and find me wherever
I was, once leaving a locked boat by climbing on the backs of my mom’s dogs
and escaping through the ceiling window. He followed my scent to the restaurant
a half kilometer away where I was having lunch. I found him roaming the kitchen
area looking for me, also likely hoping for some food to drop from the prep table

Bandit was my silent confidant and snuggle during dark times in my life when
many close to me had left and I was struggling through periods in my life that
were inconvenient and confusing for humans I trusted to understand and support me.
My boy made me drag myself out of bed and to the park so he could run and sniff
when I didn’t want to do much of anything. Bandit gave me piece after piece of
hope when I had very little hope left.

He was there when my children were born and gently sniffed them, laying next to
them at times watching and wondering who had joined our family…eventually
accepting that there were more of us now and he would be there for us all.
Bandit never left my side until March 20, 2023, when I had to make the tough
decision to allow him comfort due to a chronic illness and allow him to move on to
watch me from a new place.

I still hear his claws on the floors behind me, get up to let him out in the morning,
and I look to make sure that his water dish is full and fresh. Those habits will stay
with me for a long time.

His photos are everywhere, memories of him flood my head and heart, and today
I am finding it hard to imagine a life without my best friend. I miss him more than I
can express in words; his smell, his soft feel in my arms, and even the sound of
his soothing soft snores as he slept…always at my side…never far enough that I
could miss him. Today I miss him. Today I weep.

Bandit was not just a dog. He was my dog and my best friend. He will forever
hold that spot and will never be replaced. I wish that he was here to comfort me
through this pain I feel today- the first time I have experienced pain in over
sixteen years without his big brown eyes watching me closely and letting me
know that the sun will rise and we would walk together….into the next day.
I love you, Bandit. You are only the best dog there ever was and I thank you for
every second I had by your side. Be good and rest easy my boy.