I remember opening the car door and seeing the biggest smile I’d ever seen on being met for the first time. He clumsily ran over to me and leapt into my arms just as I fell back onto the ground. He loved me before he knew me.
His ears were almost bigger than his face, his body too uncoordinated to be graceful and his teeth shined white from end to end, I could see them all as he was coming towards me. He ran in joy.
He always ran in joy. Even as his joints weakened when age started calling on him. When the air was crisp and cool, he would bow his head first, then jerk it up quickly as his back legs would try to beat his front legs from going first. As age creeped in his gallant run was shorter but just as joyful.
The first time we went to the beach he wanted so badly to jump over the waves and catch the boat going by. When we went to the ranch where the grass had grown waste high you could see him bounding through while trying to jump over it to see me and through it to see everything underneath it too.
He would leap into the pool over and over chasing a ball and swim on top of anyone swimming laps. He would clumsily, joyfully and with purpose shake all excess water off on the person closest and usually driest, as if he thought it was his gift. He would shimmy off with a prideful wag when he finished.
He would let my nieces and nephew crawl on top of him and lay their heads on his belly as they ate or watched movies. He would gently snatch the food out of any unsuspecting child’s hands without apology and would leave them questioning what had happened.
He loved the taste of grass and cat poop and the smells from every bush, tree and pile of leaves. He stopped and paused to smell or roll in the grass, he taught me to stop and pause too. Sitting in the grass with you was one of my favorite ways to calm my anxious heart, be still and smile in the warmth of the sun.
He was my ears when I couldn’t tell where a noise happened, until he couldn’t hear them anymore. He endured 3 hospital stays in his life and collapsed into my arms whenever I would arrive to check on him.
He would bark at animals on the TV and dogs on leashes, and thought horses were giant dogs and dead ducks were gross. He would eat whatever was left on the counter but had a special love for peanut butter, yellow box crackers and beggin’ strips.
He was proud and smart, loving and empathetic, he was my child and my best friend.
I cried into his neck more times than anyone will ever know, and he kept my secret tears to himself. He would stand by my side on alert if he didn’t trust who was near me and he would settle right next to them if he did trust them. He taught me to trust my instincts.
He loved everyone I loved and everyone I loved, loved him.
He forgave me for leaving and jumped for joy each time I returned. He let me snuggle him no matter how old he got or how brittle his joints were.
He will always be, my boy.
To my boy, the Conch, my best friend, you rescued me, taught me to love, protected me, made me laugh, never disappointed me and gave my heart a home.
And on your last day in your earthly body, Concho, you could no longer stand on your own, but you smiled when you felt me petting your face. You sat up as high as you could when my support system came to hold me when I was holding you and letting you go. You showed strength in your pain, one final lesson you were teaching me.
When we visited your very first vet, just a week after we met back in 2004, he told me you were born between August 15 and 31. We had a deal, you and I, that you would stay with me until you were at least 17 years old or until I had someone to take care of me when you left. Not long before you left, I looked up and saw the people who were surrounding me, ready to hold me up whenever that day should come.
On August 20th, you crossed that rainbow bridge and I had people there to take care of me. I like to think you kept up your end of the bargain, and you were letting me know that the day you left was the day you came into the world 17 years earlier. I buried my tearful face into your neck one last time, and told you I loved you a hundred more.
Concho, you came into this world as a clumsy and joyful puppy, and you left this world as a proud, soulful gentleman.
My heart will never be the same, but it is filled with memories and gratitude for my boy chose me to live out his life and for that, I’ll always be grateful. It is broken, and I will always love him.
And I learned through all of this, I loved him before I knew him too. I'll see you at the other end of the rainbow sweet boy.