One year ago today, my husband and I lost our furry baby, Bily.
He was 11 years old and loved us with all his heart and all eight of his remaining teeth. He was our daredevil companion on every road trip we took, be it via car or motorcycle, traveling all over the country with us and well up into Canada on several occasions as well. He was witness to us climbing down a 143 foot cliff over the Bay of Fundy. An adventurer at heart, relishing in new sights and new places. Afraid of nothing. A lover of life; a hater of pigeons.
Having no children of our own, Bily was the center of our daily focus. The four-legged child we’d ‘rescued’ from a pet store in upstate New York because he looked just so damn in need of a saving. He was a body and soul entirely dependent on us, and we reveled in our responsibility to give him a happy life. His personality was, for better or worse, a hilariously canine reflection of our own. And we were supposed to have many more years with him.
The seizure this otherwise happy pup suffered in April of last year had been a signal. Intellectually, we knew that of course, but emotionally, we just couldn’t process that there might be an end in sight. And for a few short weeks, all things pointed to the chance that the seizure had been an aberration. That our baby would continue to steal my ice cream out of my bowl, pee on the carpets, growl at my husband whenever he made the mistake of moving one of his toys.
So, there was a big, fat, gaping hole in our hearts when Bily died a month later, leaving us weakened us at the proverbial knees. Our once happy threesome had instantly been dwindled down into a numbed twosome. The grief felt insurmountable. The trick God had played on us felt unforgivably cruel.
Hell, nooooooo, we said to ourselves repeatedly. We won’t even look at another dog for a long time, let alone get one!
Six months later, we met Sumter in Florida. One of the many unclaimed pups scheduled for mandatory euthanasia by the local animal control services. But a quick thinking staff member at the local Humane Society nearby had saved him from that end- scooping little Sumter up and taking him to her no-kill shelter for safe keeping and ( hopefully) adoption.
A wildly comical puppy, Sumter reminded us so very much of Bily in spirit and temperament. It was eerie. But not enough to convince us he was meant to be ours. “He’s adorable,” we kept sighing. “Someone will snap him up in a heartbeat.” After all, we had made a promise not to get another dog until we felt emotionally and intellectually ready. This was too soon, we reminded ourselves as Sumter licked our faces. It would be a betrayal of Bily’s memory. Blah, blah, blah.
Still though, there little Sumter staring back at us through the pen every time we visited the shelter to volunteer. Doing his ‘run, run, run, leap!’ prancing/jumping thing around the shelter yard. Doing everything he could to demonstrate just how happy he could make us. Despite ourselves, we had already lovingly nicknamed him Maniac.
Four weeks later, under the cover of a torrential rainfall, that little maniac was coming home with us. It is a decision that changed our lives for the better, and a day that sent us on a wonderful new path to being new puppy parents. Since that day a lot has happened in my life that has been hard to suck down. Life changes, especially those that are unexpected, can be crippling both mentally and physically. But somehow, with just one long, sloppy wet drag of his happy puppy tongue across my face…one ‘run, run, run, leap!’ peace in Central Park…Sumter manages to make everything feel manageable.
With Sumter’s age unknown, but the timing pretty close according to his size and weight and puppy teeth, we decided to make May 9th Sumter’s birthday. A tribute to his predecessor, whose spirit we glimpse in this little maniac every day. Sumter is an annual reminder of how the seemingly cruel cycle of life is, in fact, a perfect circle- the greatest of blessings if you look at the situation just right.
Happy Birthday, Sumter!