Originally Published on February 14, 2012
In celebration of Valentine’s Day, I asked readers to write a love letter to their DINOS.
Every single one of your essays moved me deeply. I think you guys will love reading them as much as I did, so over the next two weeks I’ll share all of the essays right here on my blog.
But back to the contest…It was very difficult to choose a winner. You did a wonderful job at capturing the sweet, funny, frustrations of living with DINOS. I read each essay many times, until I realized that one story in particular kept grabbing at my heart.
I kept returning, over and over, to Dutch’s story, written by Rebecca Barocas.
Her essay, chronicling the challenges and the joys of her life with Dutch, captured how DINOS live at the very center of our lives. Their needs demand our attention, protection, and dedication. And so, when they’re gone, the hole they leave in our lives is enormous. And our hearts are bigger for having let our DINOS live there.
Reading this particular essay reminded me that, while the days and the years go by quickly, our DINOS remain forever in our hearts.
Here’s the winning entry by Rebecca Barocas.
A Love Letter to My DINOS ~ Dutch
February 5th will be a year since I lost my beloved DINOS Dutch. I think that by the end, she was more of a reformed DINOS, although those early days were very challenging.
I remember those early days – you were fresh from rescue and my gosh you were a handful. You seemed determined to fight all the dogs on the earth, in small groups if need be, with one paw tied behind your back. You were my Warrior Princess: isolated, separate, proud, bold, infuriating.
You dragged me belly down through the mud, flailing like an injured pterodactyl, after some distant dog that annoyed you by its very presence in the same zip code. I remember all those obedience classes in the park, or as you liked to call them, a target-rich environment. I remember all the times I sat in the car and pounded on the steering wheel in frustration.
You were not a dumb dog. In fact, you were brilliant and sneaky and wicked smart and wicked and someone had taught you the wrong rules and made you “difficult”.
I hope you remember how proud I was of you the day you held a sit-stay as all those other dogs swirled around you. And the day you held a down-stay, when that other dog broke and ran, my heart leapt with joy. I hope you remember how proud I was the day that you came in second in your first Obedience Match and then when you passed your Canine Good Citizen test.
At the end of that day, as you lay on the grass in the park and the approaching twilight bathed your coat in golden light, you scented the air and looked at me and smiled, and that was it. Despite the mud and the frustration and the tears, right at that moment, I was feeling the joy and the pride – I knew that I had been blessed.
Someone had trusted me with you.
Remember Bo? The neighbor’s dog that visited one night and you weren’t having any part of him in YOUR house? I remember how surprised you were when he didn’t want to fight you and walked away. You looked shocked and I giggled. You were being schooled by a master in the one thing I couldn’t teach you – dog body language.
I still have that video I shot of you and Bo, in that narrow gap between the couch and the coffee table, playing bite-y feet and you’re both smiling.
Then there was the hound pack that invited us for a walk at the leash-optional beach and I got so nervous because we were running late. You started whining with nervous anticipation because you picked up on exactly how I was feeling – What if you marked up the show dogs after they were so nice to invite us? And then I realized, in that moment, how much my emotions were rubbing off on you and how, if I wanted you to be a “good” dog, I had to already believe it.
You were a good dog.
I hope you carry with you all those runs on the beach with Francis and China and Floyd and a rotating cast of newcomers and visitors you met. I remember the first time you gave another dog an appropriate correction for putting his feet on your back, and on your own, you didn’t escalate. And the time that little blind dog went after you, because you got too close, and you turned and walked away on your own.
I wept joyful tears.
After your cancer diagnosis, your oncologist said that when the other dogs woke up from their radiation treatment an attendant would walk them up and down the hallway, before returning them to their owners. But even with all those other dogs lying in the hallway, the doctor told me that you got up on your own and walked up and down the hallway all by yourself, until you were ready to go. You went to the door and waited. And any dog that snarked at you, you just walked away, so the staff just let you be. They didn’t know about your past, so they didn’t know to be worried. They just knew you were a good dog and a fantastic patient.
I wish you had stayed longer. That we had more time.
The biggest lessons you taught me, my furry angel, were patience and trust. With equal helpings of both, you became a good dog. A really good dog.
My beautiful Dutch. I miss you every day more than words can express.
Rebecca is donating the winning prize, a $50 MrChewy.com gift card, to German Shepherd Rescue of Los Angeles,
where she adopted Dutch.