It’s been one year today since our beloved puppy, Brody, died at 18 months old.
From the start Brody was full of energy, loving, and curious. He was also anxious, jumpy, and always trying to escape the house. He was delivered to us via plane from Texas one May day in 2013, 8 weeks old and cute as a button. My daughter Jocelyn showed me his picture one day on a breeder site, after months of pouring through many dog pictures, proclaiming, “He’s the one Momma!” And he was. Our family welcomed him home, placing his small crate in the backyard and allowing him to come out and explore his new surroundings. Jason, my son, named him after a democratic name-in-the-hat…his name won. So he became our labradoodle, Brody.
He instantly fit into our family’s lifestyle, running to the door when he heard the bus delivering the kids home from school, bounding out of the car for long walks in the woods, learning new tricks from Jeff, my husband. He was a treasure. But I will tell you that I was not a dog lover. I grew up with cats. Brody was my first dog and yet I instantly fell in love with him. He was a best friend as dogs are; all the clichés ran true. He won my heart.
But getting Brody to come back to the house once out was a chore. He was a free spirit and his puppy energy would take over. He would amble about, always stretching his playtime out to the last minute. As soon as he discovered an open door, out he would run, to where it didn’t matter. Perhaps looking for other dogs to play with, or new smells to encounter. Training helped but he continued to escape from the house, sometimes in dangerous situations where I found myself running down our street to catch him. To him it was all natural, playtime. To me it was frustrating and often times, scary and stressful.
On November 4, 2014 when he was just 18 months old, I took him for a drive. It was to be a short drive, a few errands. He loved car rides and I was apt to take him whenever I could. I didn’t even tell my husband I was leaving for I intended to be back home shortly.
Brody saw another dog at one destination, took advantage of my misplaced trust and lack of keeping him tied up in the back seat, and jumped from the window as I parked. The rest was brutal, an experience of frustration as I frantically called him back to me. But he was determined to play, to run, to be himself.
The truck passed by quickly, perhaps a little too fast- the rest a perfect storm of timing. He darted away from me as I ran toward him, drifting into the busy street and he was almost instantly killed. I won’t describe the impact on his body or the way I saw him sail through the air, landing under a lamp post, silent and still. The rest of the story is heart wrenching, a mix of driving to the animal hospital, where the doctor sadly looked at me and said “I am so sorry; there is nothing more I can do.” The look on her face, calling my husband in a flood of tears, holding his still-warm body one last time; it is forever imprinted in my memory bank.
This experience I share as a testament of learning self-forgiveness. The what ifs continued in my mind for months. Would haves, could haves, should haves- I beat myself up trying to bring him back. The ladybug we found on his fur minutes after his passing provided some relief in that I had a symbol to hold. Ladybugs teach life is short, to let go of ones' worries and fears, to trust in spirit and enjoy life. The ladybug symbol brings the gifts of renewal and regeneration. The message of the Ladybug could be asking you to “Let go and let God.”
So this too is what I have done, to celebrate his short life, his specialness. He taught me to let go of the what ifs and to focus instead on his valuable time spent in our lives. He taught me to forgive myself for the things I have not yet learned but will. Someone suggested I replace my last horrible image of him with something more happy and positive. I now picture his dog soul rising from that still body, metamorphosing into millions of lady bugs flying high into the sky, naturally free and curious.
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