Dear Rally

Dear Rally,

I hope you’re not upset with me that I started writing this letter in my head a little more than 3 weeks ago. When we found out your kidneys were failing, I knew we still had some time together. I wanted to start thinking about our life together, and how I might capture a glimpse of it, even though it hurt.

I told myself that as long as we had you with us, we would spoil you more, and love you more, and somehow that would make letting you go even easier. I couldn’t have been more wrong, Rally.

Ever since I helped you to the floor for your final nap this week, I haven’t been able to stop crying. Where did you go, girl? It all happened so fast. I thought we would have more time to… I’m not really sure.

I gave you your last bone at the house, and sat watching you blissfully work on it. Before that, the reason I sat outside with you is because I wanted to spend more time with you. I was trying to steal more time. I loved watching you sniff the air, and then the ground, and back again.

When we walked into the vet’s office, I could tell you were nervous. Before they needed to take you, you backed up and planted your butt on my leg—the same way you introduced yourself to me over 10 years ago.

Do you remember that as clearly as I do?

We were all young and a little reckless back then. Adopting a dog probably wasn’t the smartest idea we had, but there you were. I remember you looking up at me through the glass wall. I had to meet you. And you met me too, butt first.

Even though you were already three years old—a street smart Colfax dog on the loose from the story we heard—we took you home that day.

Over that first year you probably wondered what we’d gotten you into. My young relationship wasn’t built to last, and so we briefly said goodbye when you went to live with her. But looking back, maybe you had others plans, didn’t you?

That night came not too many days later when she drove you back to my house. I’m sorry if that was scary, or loud, or you thought you had done something wrong. I’ll never forget you stumbling down the stairs, confused and scared, as she thrusted you back into my life.

I’ll be honest Rally, I didn’t know what I was going to do.

I remember coming home from work back then, us in a cramped basement apartment. You’d be jumping with joy. I quickly realized we were pals, and you were going to be my sidekick. I think you liked that idea.

We would hike together, visit dog parks together, and I’d let you up on the couch to snuggle behind my legs at night. I didn’t care about the dog hair. There came a point when I felt you love me unlike before. I felt you wanting to be close to me. You knew you were safe with me for good.

As the years passed, I met another young woman and fell in love. You started seeing more and more of her, and after a while, we moved in together.

Before you knew it, you had a puppy brother. He was a bit too energetic and rowdy for your tastes, perhaps, but you loved him; you helped show him the way. And you also held your own when we’d have epic fetch sessions at the park.

I loved watching you run, Rally. I loved your perky ears come to attention and your bushy tail wag in the air. You were so unique.

A little more than 4 years ago, our world was turned upside down. My marriage ended in a very sad way, and the home we’d all built was changing quickly.

I’m sorry if I wasn’t paying much attention to you then. I was hurting so much, and it took some time for me to realize the most important pieces in my life.

You were always at the top, Rally.

During that time we grew even closer. You’d find me crying about something as I tried to sort out life, and your sweet eyes would hit my teary eyes, tail wagging. Thank you, Rally.

When summer thunderstorms hit, you’d start shaking and I’d bring you next to me even if was in the middle of the night. In fact, I never stopped doing that, even this last summer when you couldn’t hear the thunder, but you saw the lightning—do you remember? I hope that comforted you.

I’ll never forget when we moved into our final home together. We were both a little scared, but the memory of us camped out in that hot garage is as vivid as ever. We hung out for the afternoon before I got the keys to let us in.

Once we were inside, it was our place. But it was your place, too. I wanted to give you a palace to call your own after all those years.

We did a lot of work on the house together. We were making it our space, and even though you started losing your hearing, I could tell you were happy. We were finally settled, together. You loved your dog bed in the corner, catching the sun’s rays. I haven’t moved it yet.

Then, as I got to know Sarah better, you loved her, too. I really appreciated that, Rally.

You had seen the best and the worst life had to offer over the last decade, but you always seemed to warm up to people you knew were meaningful to me.

After Sarah and I married in the fall, I wondered how you were feeling. You were getting skinnier and we were worried you weren’t feeling well, which is how we eventually found out you were sick.

You never showed us pain, though, Rally. I wish I knew when you were hurting.

There were days when you would eat nothing, then days when you would eat everything, bouncing back to your old self. I remember this winter when I noticed you wouldn’t sit down all the way to “shake” me anymore, even for treats. You were still a happy girl, but I knew you were hurting.

After that rough overnight earlier this week, I gave you a little smack on the butt as I hustled you outside for the third time. I cry about that now, Rally, because it wasn’t your fault. I’m so sorry. I know you must have felt so bad.

You haven’t been gone long, but I find myself straining to remember everything about you so I won’t forget.

Remembering your sounds, your human-like groans, your nails clicking on the flooring here. I remember the sound of your paws coming up the stairs to lay next to me while I worked at home, and your willingness to trust me, always.

I’ll never forget how you jumped straight up into the air when you were excited, or rested your head on my left shoulder on long car rides.

Do you remember that time you ran a solid 1/2 mile away in the woods because you didn’t want to camp that day? Crazy girl. And that feeling we got when we were both sitting on the floor in our new house together? We were so excited.

I’m going to miss you by my side the most, though. It’s been eerily quiet since you’ve been gone. You followed me wherever I would go.

Every memory I have in Denver is in some way linked to you, did you know that? You’re in each mental photograph.

Sometimes I wonder if you came into my life on a mission to help me through these formidable years, holding on long enough to see my happiness with Sarah. Was that a part of your plan, Rally?

You taught me a lot about myself. I didn’t realize until now how hard I loved you, and how much it meant to have you with me. I hope you felt my love, too.

I could talk forever with you, Rally girl.

Before I go, I want to tell you about a memory that just resurfaced. We were doing a hike together, heading down the slopes just above tree line. It wasn’t rocky, though. The tundra was warm and forgiving that day. It was wide open, and you were running. Up and down, up and down.

I was a little worried you weren’t on the leash, but you kept running back up to me as to share your excitement with me. I loved that.

When I stopped and sat down, you sat down. You were panting, but you couldn’t hide that smile on your face. As you lapped up water I remember you closing your eyes and facing the sun. When you were comfortable, you absolutely loved sitting in the sun.

When I think about where you are now, my heart aches with hope that you’re sitting in the sun somewhere, feeling warm, and feeling healthy. That you have no more pain, and that you know I love you.

I was never a dog person, Rally—but you got me. And I got you.

Rally Arnold was 13 1/2 years old.

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