It’s been over 14 years since I knew life without Mia.
Fourteen years is a lot of years for a dog. Even a superwoman like her, who still swam in the river every weekend up until a few months ago. It stands to reason that her back legs started giving out and her body started slowly shutting down on her. She had done more than her fair share in her fourteen years, after all.
But more than the swims, the happiness, the river walks and neighborhood jogs, more than the trips to Tahoe and Baskin Robbins, it was what she did for me that makes it so damn hard to say bye.
In sixth grade she kept the monsters away from me while I slept with her sleeping in my bed right next to me.
Throughout my awkward middle school years she was a friend I knew was never too cool to hang out with me every weekend.
Throughout high school she was a soft pillow to cry into when things were tough.
Throughout college she was my favorite part about coming home each Christmas and summer break. A majority of the flight home was spent thinking about how I could surprise her when I walked in the door.
In my post-Kentucky years she remained a die-hard Kentucky fan, wearing her UK collar everywhere she went. She proved that sometimes dogs really do like ‘Cats.
Last year during a long, difficult and frustrating period of unemployment, she was my only constant. She single-handedly got me through those months. No matter how many companies I didn’t hear back from each day or how many arguments I was in with my parents, I knew I could count on her to go on a walk with me every single morning. If it was a good day and her legs were feeling young, we’d walk the whole bike trail. If it was hot she’d lay in the backyard and tan with me. If for nothing else, I’m thankful for those long days because of the time I got to spend with her.
After a big fight with my dad two summers ago, she was the catalyst for a reconciliation that would have taken MUCH longer, had it not been for the two of us, both crying, going to her for solace and comfort in the middle of the night only to find that the other was already there, too.
And finally, in my last visit home at Thanksgiving, she let me sleep with her on her bed the night before I left. I watched her sleep, her cute face white with wisdom and age, and gave her my blessing to go when she was ready.
I knew this day would come, and in the past few months I knew it would be coming soon. I guess I just didn’t expect it to come on a Saturday morning, five days before I was going to be getting back on a plane to go home for Christmas to see her like I’ve done every other year for the past seven years.
Mia has been a fixture of me, my family, my Instagrams, my best stories and our house for over a decade. If you’ve never REALLY known the love, happiness and companionship of a dog, this statement-and this writing in general-will seem like hyperbole to you, but I genuinely don’t know how long it will take to fill the void she’s left. If you have REALLY know the love, happiness and companionship of a dog, know that it hurts probably just as badly as you think it will, but that it is SO worth it. We grew up together and I can’t imagine the past 14 years of my life without one of my oldest and closest friends.