“God will prepare everything for our perfect happiness in Heaven, and if it takes my dog being there, I believe he’ll be there.”Billy Graham
There’s something special about the first dog you get as a family, the one who sees your children grow up. For us, that was Scrappy.
My memory is littered with images of him curled up beside the girls while they slept or chasing after them as they ran through the house. He was sweet when he wanted to be – but early on, I learned beagles have a stubborn streak.
We never got beyond basic commands: sit, shake, and speak. Needless to say, Scrappy’s manners left a lot to be desired. He nosed through the trash, snarled over food, and hated a leash. But rude or not, he was loved.
That’s not something I say lightly. I was a tough cookie to break when it came to pets. I loved animals, but spending time on a farm etched a hard line between pets and family. Scrappy erased that line when he was three years old by climbing into my lap to have his first grand mal seizure.
After it was over, I remember being amazed that he had come to me at his weakest moment. He trusted me to keep him safe when he couldn’t do it himself. Over the next decade, Scrappy found a safe haven in my lap countless times.
The seizures made us all acutely aware that Scrappy’s time with us was limited. As a result, we treasured him just a little bit more. We gave him free rein. He slept in the bed, cuddled with us on the couch, and begged at our feet as we ate dinner.
Scrappy saw us through the growing pains we experienced as a young family – for that alone, he deserved all the spoiling he got.
After he developed epilepsy, I didn’t expect him to make it to 10, but he did. Not only did he make it, but he was still happy and mostly healthy. 11 and 12 were much the same. It feels like the proverbial shoe dropped as soon as I started to think he might live to see Belle through her high school years.
One random morning after his 13th birthday, Scrappy woke up unable to use the bathroom. After a dozen trips to the vet, we learned that his epilepsy was likely the culprit. Over the following weeks, he developed a bilateral hernia and had to be manually evacuated. Hernia surgery was pointless; there was no way to fix the underlying issue.
When the time came, as it always does, we had a plan in place. The night before, we made steaks, giving Scrappy a plate-sized ribeye. His dessert was a bowl of whipped cream. We let him play outside a little longer and took turns cuddling him before bed.
We opted for at-home euthanasia. Gathered around Scrappy’s bed in the den, we said our goodbyes. I cradled his head as he drifted off. We allowed ourselves to openly grieve in the privacy of our home. Clinging to one another, we watched as Scrappy was carried out of our door for the last time.
The pain hasn’t quite subsided. I still tear up when I come across one of his favorite toys or accidentally holler his name when our German Shorthaired Pointer, Roxy, scrounges around in the kitchen. I catch Brandon and the girls doing the same.
Scrappy pops up in the most unexpected places – even on my phone. Many of my iPhone photo recommendations are of my sweet little old man. I frequently catch myself scrolling through my albums, staring into his sad-hound eyes, and thinking of how he changed my world, teaching me that family comes in various packages.