Many years ago, I rescued a cute little miniature huskey-chow mix. The awkward runt of a litter, she boasted charcoal fur, accented by a single white paw.
Her eyes spun slightly outward, so she always appeared to be looking in two different directions.
Above these eyes, though, lush, curly eyelashes combined with her soft hazel eyes to fan utter sweetness…
And because she lapped water upward rather than downward, like a typical dog, she’d often snort, while the water splashed in her nose. Because of this, I gave her the nickname “Pig”…which quickly became “Piggy.”
In truth, I couldn’t adore anything more.
No matter how many women I’d known to that point, Piggy instantly became the love of my life. Together, we shared a journey that spanned four states, three jobs, and a very difficult break-up.
Every night, she slept beside me. Every day, she walked the neighborhood, beside me. Every time I drove to the store, the bank, a family gathering, a park, anywhere, Piggy road…beside me.
For a little more than nine years, I trekked through this sometimes arduous thing called life…
With Piggy beside me.
She deepened my empathy.
She taught me true compassion.
She helped rebuild my self-esteem after I’d been broken by another.
And she made me believe in the concept of soul contracts.
Piggy taught me so much about life itself, and as cliche as it may sound, she taught me about the value of the moment, about enjoying the simple things.
And then, seemingly out of nowhere, she got sick…and passed.
I’ve lost a father. I’ve lost several cousins. I’ve lost a close friend. I’ve lost a lover. I’ve lost all my grandparents, half a dozen aunts, and five uncles…
I’ve lost games…I’ve lost competitions…I’ve lost sporting titles…
I’ve lost money…heirlooms…keepsakes…
I’ve even lost my dignity on occasion.
Yet nothing has ever hurt like the loss of Piggy.
The day I said goodbye to her, at the University of Minnesota’s Veterinary Medical Center, I was forced to take her back to my parents’ home, in a box. My parents house resided halfway between the hospital and my home. I stopped to spend time with my mom, who loved Piggy with all her heart, and always had a ton of compassion for animals and those that cared for them.
However, when I arrived at my parents’ house, my dad was waiting for me. To say my father and I had a challenging relationship would be a bit of an understatement.
As he stepped into the kitchen, to supposedly greet me, my dad held a pair of concert tickets. They were for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, that night—a show that would start 90 minutes later. My dad insisted I put a boxed Piggy in the laundry room and use the tickets that evening. “I don’t want these tickets to go to waste,” he said. “And your mom and I can’t go. Just go. Mom will make you a quick dinner and then you can head to the concert.” He slapped my shoulder, “It’ll be good for you, Nels.”
I didn’t eat dinner. Instead, I took the tickets, drove the 20 minutes to downtown Saint Paul…
Then parked in the river flats, found a spot upon a bench, gazed out at the city’s reflection…and, for the next three hours, cried my eyes out.
By the time I got back to my parents, to pick up the box, my dad was fast asleep and my eyes were almost swollen shut.
My mother, to her credit, tried to console me…but at that point, I just couldn’t cry anymore. Literally, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to see.
During the ensuing weeks, my dad kept on me about it.
So did the guy I worked for at the time, doing landscaping—about how I needed to get over it. That it was just an animal. That I could adopt another one and move on.
“There were more important things in life than a pet, you know, buddy?” he said. “Like responsibilities, like obligations, like your career. Someday you’ll understand what I mean. I think you’re just being too sensitive about it all right now. You ask me, I say it’s time to get back at it.”
And all I wanted was to walk through my door and once again see her waiting for me.
In fact, some of my fondest memories—in a lifetime well-lived and well-traveled—are of Piggy waiting for me just beyond the front door, tail wagging, feet dancing, eyelashes batting…
As if she’d trademarked a special serenade just for Papa.