Let me start out by saying that this is a happy story. It has a sad ending, but the journey was full of so much love and joy. It’s been almost 1 month since I learned of the news and my heart is still breaking. I’ve never felt a love this strong or a loss this difficult. Let’s start at the beginning.
The Initial Meeting
We had rescued an Australian Shepard (mix), named Roxy, recently but wanted a second dog. We were just leaving a pet store in South Florida with dog food when we saw a family with a black dachshund puppy. Curiously, my mother asked where they had gotten her and the family explained that she was a rescue. They gave us the information and we investigated to see if there was any more. Sure enough, there was. A small, chocolate dachshund was left. She was the runt of the litter and born to an abusive breeder. She had a skin condition where her fur was patchy and her skin was flaky. The end of her tail was a curled up little nub and she had a personality like no other. My parents and I went to see her on a rainy evening and my mom fell in love. My father and I weren’t so sure. “I mean, look at her,” I thought to myself back in 2005. “She barely has any fur. She looks more like a rat than a dog.”
Nonetheless, my mother insisted on getting her. So, with Roxy panting through the car window, we got into our old white Lincoln and drove to a Target to get her a collar. Roxy was more interested in her than I was. I would just stare at her from the corner of my eye, stubbornly thinking “This isn’t going to be fun.” Regardless, this small little dachshund looked up at me with her brown eyes and decided to make herself comfy on my lap. She curled up into a perfectly small ball and immediately fell asleep, despite her new Australian Shepard sister trying to sniff her. I sat there for a moment, staring at this brown animal peacefully curled on my lap, and knew that we would be best friends for life.
Not only was I growing up, but I had my best friend growing up right along side me. While she didn’t get too much bigger physically, her personality grew exponentially. She also got to experience a lot of new things with me. My family often joked about just how much she was able to experience.
She had gone camping with us and was secretly brought onto a canoe via a large waterproof bag. She rode bikes with me, skateboarded with me and was brought into department stores inside a purse despite there being strict “no dog” policies. She swam in our home pool, traveled to Michigan during a 14 hour road trip, and took many walks around Florida and Georgia. She was once bitten by a neighborhood dog and got all fixed up, thanks to my father and some super glue (I’m not kidding but don’t worry, her vet was fine with the procedure). She loved on many of my guinea pigs and had countless car rides. She was the definition of spoiled.
There was also a lot of help that she provided for me and we provided for her. Like I mentioned, her fur was very patchy and her skin had flakes. She also smelled really bad. It took some time to experiment, but we eventually found the right food that helped her fur grow back and that mixing Borax with vinegar helped with her flakes and smell. Then there’s the typical pet owner stuff like keeping her safe and vaccinated and keeping her warm and giving her medicine when she needed it and food. She also helped me. She could sense when I was sick and was at my side. She helped my depression. She helped motivate me on bad days. She encouraged me to learn ukulele by falling asleep every time I played. She helped shape me into who I am now.
She watched me go from elementary school into middle school, graduate middle school and start my first public high school, move from Florida to Georgia and start a Georgia high school, graduate from high school and start college. She was there for me at my highs and my lows. She slept in my bed with me every single night for her 14 years of life. She was there for every breakup, every new friend, every school project. She was there when I was kicked out of college and slept on my lap when I was filling out countless paperwork to fix my GPA and get back into school. She was there when family members died and new family members entered into the world. She was a constant in so many lives, but especially mine.
My Photography Guinea Pig
By the time I was in 8th grade, I started to get an interest in photography. I would use my guinea pigs and random objects around my room (books, stuffed animals, a guitar), but my best subject was Bella. She was so patient with me and allowed me to practice my hobby.
I learned about ISO and f stops and filters and shutter speed all because of her. The more photos I took of her, the better my photography became. It was also a bonding moment. I’d take her places so I could have interesting backgrounds but it was also just really nice to have time with her. No internet, no friends, no one but her and I. The older she got, the more patient she became and the more photos I took.
Her Senior Years
She really started getting old around the time we move to Georgia in 2012. She got chunkier, furrier and had a grayer mustache. She slept more, was lazier, and quieter. However, she was always healthy. She never showed signs that her time was coming closer. That’s why I completely broke down when I heard the news of her passing.
I’m a college student, which means I’m rarely home. Prior to the news of her passing, I had come up during the summer of 2018 to spend two days with my Australian Shepard, Roxy, on her last day. While I hated to see her go, I was grateful to have gotten to spend her last day with her and have time to plan for her passing. With Bella, it was unexpected for everyone. She had passed in her sleep with no warning. My mom found her when she woke up, still in her dog bed.
It’s been 1 month now. My heart is still aching, knowing that she’s no longer on this earth with me. It’s hard for me to ever remember a time where she wasn’t alive. It’s tempting to cry alone and wonder “did she know how much I loved her?” but I keep reminding myself that yes, she did.
I was lucky. I got 12 amazing years with her. I had her since I was around 9 years old. I’m 21 now, so I spent a good chunk of my life with her. Dogs die every day in all sorts of ways in all sorts of places. My dog isn’t some special case, but she was incredibly special to me. I wasn’t there on her last day, but I wrote this post so that her memory can live on a little longer. She deserves that, at the very least.