Sharing my life with an animal is one of the greatest joys I could imagine. There is nothing better than coming home after a long hard day and being met at the door by my dogs, wagging their tails and giving me kisses. . . it instantly erases all my stress, at least for a little while. My husband, Chris, and I don't have kids, not yet anyway, so I treat my dogs like they are my kids. People say things change when you have actual children, but I hope it doesn't. I love knowing that I am giving my dogs the best life possible and that they are loved and appreciated every day.

Nothing could prepare me for the loss I would feel when my first two dogs, Samus and Max, passed away. When we lost Samus, Chris and I spent the next three days in bed, crying our eyes out. Seven months later, Max passed away too. Our home had changed forever. Looking back, we realized just how much Samus and Max had affected our lives. They taught us about patience, unconditional love, and what's really important in life.

What follows are my thoughts on the passing of sweet Samus. I will be sharing Max's story tomorrow.

I’ve tried to write this piece about 5 times now. Every time I see that title, I just tear up and have to walk away. Chris and I lost our baby girl two weeks ago. It was sudden, unexpected, and heartbreaking. We don’t know for sure, but we think she had cardiomyopathy, a condition of the heart, where it just gives out without warning. We knew she wasn’t feeling good, took her to the vet, and her heart rate was at 300 beats per minute. They tried to fix it but nothing worked and after a few hours at the vet, she basically had a heart attack. Chris and I had to hold her the last few minutes while she was passing . . . it was just heartbreaking; there is no other way to describe it. It tore us both to pieces, having to watch something you love so much, go away forever.

Samus came into our lives when she was 6 weeks old. Chris and I had a terrible fight about what kind of dog we were going to get. My heart was set on a boston terrier . . . I even went out and bought a book about them! Chris finally dropped the bomb on me that it was his turn, I had chosen our first pets (cats, they were insane!) and he wanted a boxer. I was SOOOOO mad! That all changed the day he picked me up from work with a newspaper in his hand. He had the ad circled and was determined that it was the day for us to add to our family. I agreed and we drove straight to the breeder’s house. Inside, Samus’s grandmother climbed up on the couch beside us and we knew these had to be the sweetest puppies ever. A few minutes later, all hell broke loose as the puppy gate was removed and we were tackled by 10-12 little baby boxers. Chris picked out our little girl and we named her Samus. I fell so deeply in love with her within that first hour, I just never expected it. I’ve had animals my whole life but this was our first puppy, and she was perfect.

Well, she was perfect in every way but one . . . she was CRAZY!! Chris and I could barely keep up with her the next few months; she had more energy than both of us combined. We decided that she needed a buddy to keep her company while we were at work, so 4 months later, we got Max. They became best friends immediately, and stayed that way for the last nine years. The only flaw in our plan was that Max was the laziest dog ever and spent more time on the couch with us than playing with her!

Chris and I knew that we would lose them one day . . . but it didn’t stop us from loving them dearly. I am so thankful for the fact that we loved her so much, and because of that, I have few regrets. She was spoiled rotten. Every Christmas and birthday, I would go to goodwill and stock up with bags of stuffed animals. We would give them to her all at once and and watch her roll around on the floor in bliss. Max couldn't care less about the toys; they were all for her. Her favorite had to have been the frisbee.

Losing her was one of the hardest things I have ever gone through. For me, it rated on the same level as losing my brother 12 years ago. I knew it would be difficult, but I don’t think I was quite prepared for the amount of grief I would feel. I realized through all of this just how much you can learn about life from a dog. She taught me about joy, love, and losing. Losing her made me look at life through a different lens and I am trying to hold on to that and not go back to the way I was before. I was able to look back at things that had happened the last week, month, year, and see that things happened for a reason and everything worked out like it was supposed to, even though it wasn’t what I wanted. Even looking back at when we got her, I didn’t want a boxer, but God put one in my life anyway. Looking back, she was exactly what I wanted and what I needed in my life, I just didn’t know it. I am so glad that somehow I was chosen to be her mama.

Losing her also reminded me of the fact that no one is promised another day, not you, not me . . . not anyone. I learned that I need to accept things the way they are and concentrate on the joy in my life, not the bad things. And I learned that I need to appreciate my friends and family a little bit more every day because it might be the last chance I get to tell them how I feel. We never thought that on Easter Sunday, when we spent the afternoon in our favorite park, lying in the sun, that 24 hours later, she would be gone forever. I loved her so much, and I still do, and I am so sad she is gone.

I’ll end with this, an excerpt from a poem by Danna Faulds that I am trying to take to heart:

“Do not let the day slip through your fingers, but live it fully now, this breath, this moment, catapulting you into full awareness. Time is precious, minutes disappearing like water into sand, unless you choose to pay attention. Since you do not know the number of your days, treat each as if it is your last. Be that compassionate with yourself, that open and loving to others, that determined to give what is yours to give and to let in the energy and wonder of this world. Experience everything, writing, relating, eating, doing all the little necessary tasks of life as if for the first time…pushing nothing aside as unimportant. You have received these same reminders many times before, this time, take them into your soul. For if you choose to live this way, you will be rich beyond measure, grateful beyond words, and the day of your death will arrive with no regrets.”

I miss you Samus.