When Kenan meets you tomorrow, I need you to make me a few promises.
Be kind. He is a very special dog, full of quirks and bad habits. He is mixed with grizzly bear and teddy bear. He moves with the speed of lightning and the stubbornness of a thousand mules. It is easy to shout and push. But Kenan deserves so much more than forcefulness. He deserves hugs and snuggles, loving words and mountains of praise. And, when you feel like you have given all the love and encouragement that you can give, he will surprise you with the nuzzle of his nose, the soft touch of his ears, and the most grateful look in his eyes.
Be patient. I’ve always said that Kenan is the kind of dog that only his mother can love. While some people might describe him as annoying, I would describe him as interesting. He talks and he cries. He will never let you watch your favorite show. And he makes sure that everyone in the house knows what he wants and when he wants it. But he is loyal and sweet. He can sense when you are upset or hurting. And he knows just when to lay his head, ever so gently, right in your lap so you might be distracted, just for a few minutes, from whatever is causing you pain. You just have to be patient enough to give him the chance.
Be a protector. Kenan is so used to guarding us that he often forgets to watch out for himself. He wore a dirt path in our yard along the fence line, and yet, he never once asked for protection in return. He barked every time someone rang the doorbell or pulled in to the driveway. And on the random nights that I was home alone and Matt was away, Kenan stood guard by my bedside, without sleeping, just to make sure that I was safe. Yet, as I watched so vigilantly over him, he still developed this terrible disease. I watched as his toes began to curl under as he walked. I looked away as he began to get up more slowly every morning. And I denied that this was more than just arthritis in an old and tired dog. And now, as I sit, cuddled up beside him on the night before we take him to the vet to take his final breaths, I blame myself for not protecting him.
Be fun. He loves to run and chase. He loves to be mischievous and impish. I can’t count the hours that we played outside, playing a one-sided version of fetch. I would throw the ball, he would run and get it, bring it back, and then refuse to give it to me so I could throw it again. Instead, he wanted to play tug, and jump, and wrestle. We had to put blockades under the deck because of the number of times he crawled under there to hide and couldn’t get out. And then there’s the time he caught the ground hog…
Be still. He doesn’t really like it when you move, or when you’re too loud, or when you disrupt him in any way. In fact, when he used to sleep under the bed, he would growl if you happened to turn over while on top of the bed. And, if he snuggles up next to you, don’t move, or shift, or itch your leg. That also bothers him.
And, as I am not positive if dogs go to doggy heaven or people heaven, please, whichever heaven Kenan manages to smuggle his way into, please help him to find friends. Help him to discover again how amazing he is. Help him to be able to come and go back into our lives as we need him. Help him to remind us that we are not infallible human beings and that we must be grateful for what we have. Help us to be able to sense him when he visits and be able to love and support him, even in spirit.
I have this ridiculous fear that he won’t fit in when he gets to heaven. No matter what dog park we went to here on Earth, he was always the outcast. He was always louder and more vocal than any other dog. He always ran faster without looking than any other dog. And he could never quite take the social cues that the other dogs put off. I hope heaven would be different. I hope in heaven, there are other dogs with curly tails, loud, boisterous voices, and wildly rambunctious crazy runs. I need him to know that he is the king of dogs, in heaven, and in our lives.
I’m desperately afraid that we have made the wrong decision. And I am even more afraid that we have made the right one. Kenan, I love you… More than you could ever know. Thank you for being the best dog, the worst dog, and the most amazing friend I could ask for. I only hope that you can say the same for me.