To My Best Friend

As I began writing my “Fall Fashion” blog article during my flight back to Tampa, I somehow couldn’t find the words to say so I decided to write what was on my mind and in my heart. While this may not be an informational blog article, I think it can be used as a testament for those who need to hear what Man’s Best Friend truly means. 

Growing up, we had quite a few pets. On Christmas morning, when I was five years old, my parents surprised me with a beautiful Shar Pei puppy they named Mariah. She was the sweetest dog who always listened and was quite the snuggle bug. At that point in time, we lived in a condo and the association did not permit dogs over a certain size. She was one of the good ones but unfortunately, we had some older and might I add mean next door neighbors. She was quiet for the most part but I guess they didn’t like that we were breaking the rules and  told the condo association. We had no choice but to give her away less than a year later. We gave her to a family that lived on a farm and they took great care of her. About a year later, my mom was coming home from work late on Halloween night and when she opened the door, a black stray cat decided to make a run for it into our home. My parents believed it would be a bad omen if they gave him away so they decided to keep the stray cat who clearly just wanted to be in a home with a loving family. We named him Sebastian since I had a slight obsession with The Little Mermaid at the time. While I do not love cats and later found out I am deathly allergic, he was the best! He kept to himself, slept a lot but was always there when I needed a playmate. Less than a year and a half later, he passed away underneath my bed on my birthday. Losing not one but two pets in just over two years didn’t sit well with my parents and little did I know, it would be a long time before we would ever have a pet again.

It wasn’t until my Freshman year of high school when we made the decision to get a dog. My father’s dream dog up to that point had always been an English Bulldog. After lots of research we found a breeder in Florida and picked up our bully at the airport a month later. He was a champion sired bulldog and we named him Sarge. If you know English Bulldogs then you know they don’t have a ton of energy but he was quite the energizer bunny. He loved to play soccer and was the perfect defender while I practiced in the backyard even if it was only ten minutes before he was panting. He also loved to keep to himself rather than snuggle but him and my father had a special bond. My sophomore year in college I received a call from my father that Sarge had passed away. He brought him to the vet because he wasn’t acting like his usual self and after multiple tests, my father was told there was nothing more they could do for him. I know this all sounds sad but don’t worry, it will get better!

When I came home for the summer at the end of my sophomore year in college, my siblings and I decided it was time for us to get another dog, a dog we could call ours, the family dog. We begged and begged my parents who after lots of “no’s” finally caved. My brother had a few friends on his baseball team whose parents adopted their puppies through a well known rescue company that transported dogs of all ages from down south to the New England area. I contacted the company and immediately filled out an application so we could get approved to adopt a puppy. When I told my parents we were approved, they made sure to note that my siblings and I would be buying, training and doing everything for the dog which of course we had no issues with. After a few weeks of sifting through all of the dogs and puppies available, I finally found him! We chose a sweet tan and white golden retriever, border collie mix and his name was Dewdrop due to his white rain drop on his forehead. I couldn’t wait to pick him up! 

He was transported in a trailer to a nearby city in Connecticut. My dad and I picked up Dewdrop and he was the sweetest boy! He was definitely scared at first, to be expected, so we spent the whole day easing him in and getting him comfortable in his new home with his new family. While we loved the name Dewdrop, we settled on the name Bama, after our long time love for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Thinking back, I should have settled on the name Bear but Bama Bryant Morales had a special ring to it. He had so much energy, always running around chasing me. We would play tag throughout the house a lot! He quickly grew a fascination with tennis balls, softballs, baseballs and basically anything he could play fetch with or chase. The first week was rough to say the least. I spent every night sleeping on the floor next to his kennel because all he wanted was to snuggle up in bed with my sister and I but my parents said that he needed to be crate trained. I spent another couple of weeks or so getting up at least twice a night (2:30am and 4:30/5am) to take him out. Within a month, Bama was fully potty trained and going to every baseball, softball, football and soccer game, cheering us all on. Remember when I said he had a fascination with chasing and fetching…well he got loose quite a few times and became known as the 12th man on the field. We instantly had an unbreakable bond and were thick as thieves. We went to the dog park almost every day, daily jogs and hikes to keep up with my summer fitness packet, weekly trips to the pet store for new toys and lots of Starbucks trips for Puppuccinos. My siblings, Bama and I were inseparable. Sure, he chewed up the furniture, water bottles, maybe some drywall (he hated thunderstorms), oh and I can’t forget the hundreds of iPhone chargers we went through but he was the best! My parents may say otherwise but I could only get mad and say “no” to his cute face so many times. Bama may not have been the most behaved dog but he was always there for all of us when we needed a shoulder to lean on. 

College was easily the most difficult and challenging time in my life. I had spent my whole life up to that point working to do one thing and that was play soccer, but my body had a different plan. No matter what I did, injuries just kept taking a toll on me and eventually was deemed medically ineligible. Grieving the loss of the one thing I felt made me who I was put me in a really dark place. My academics started slipping, I lost my faith and quite honestly started spiraling out of control. At the time, I didn’t know who I was, who I wanted to be, nor what I wanted to do with my life. No matter how dark things got or how difficult life became, I always came home and my best friend would be waiting for me by the door ready to greet me with a big hug. He loved to jump up on his hind legs and reach up with his paws to greet those he loved most. I would spend hours talking to him and crying while he just snuggled up and gave me that “everything is going to be okay” look. He always knew what I needed, including going to the door with his ball so I could bring him to the dog park to get my mind off of whatever was happening. He was a listener when I needed someone to talk to and a snuggle buddy when I just needed a shoulder to cry on. 

As years continued to pass, things started to get better. I picked myself up out of that deep dark hole, found myself and most importantly loved myself again. In the midst of getting ready to graduate, I also met the love of my life, my now husband Vincent. Soon after meeting Vincent, life just started to fall into place. I would visit Connecticut often and always spend time with my Bama boy and as much as I wanted him to live with me in Tampa, he was also my sibling’s dog. They wanted him to stay home and I couldn’t take him away from them. No matter how many years passed, he would always be right by the door waiting for me to come home to greet me and play tag all over the house. I regret that I took the past couple of years for granted, believing he would be around forever. In my eyes, he was invincible but reality sunk in a couple of weeks ago when my parents called to tell me he was really sick. I immediately bought my ticket back to Connecticut to not only see my family since it had been a year but to see my boy. While back home my parents left the decision up to me. They knew he was my boy and that I needed to decide what was going to happen. In the end, I decided that while I wish he could be here and with me forever, I needed to be strong enough to make the best decision for him. He was in a lot of pain and I could not bear the thought of him suffering anymore because I simply wanted more time. I needed to stop being selfish and do what was best for him. As difficult as it was, I was with him until the very end. It was a beautiful, peaceful afternoon filled with sunny blue skies when he passed in my arms. 

Saying goodbye to him was the most difficult thing I have ever had to do. He was my first dog, my best friend, my confidant, my trouble maker and my silly, sweet boy. He was there for me through the highs and lows of my life and saying goodbye to him was heart wrenching but he knew his job was complete. While I didn’t know it at the time, Bama came into my life when I needed him the most and left when he knew I was ready to take this life on without him. To my best friend, thank you for being the light that shined bright through my darkest days. You were everything I never knew I needed and so much more. You will always be my Bam Bam and your paw will forever be imprinted on my heart! This is not a sad story but instead a testament to why they say a dog is truly Man’s Best Friend! “How lucky I am to have had something that made saying goodbye so hard.”