Update: Originally posted Valentine’s Day 2013. What a difference a year makes!
Valentine’s Day 2013 has come and gone and for the first time in 15 years, I spent it without the love of my life.
We had a special kind of love, one that didn’t include things of a materialistic nature. In all the years we spent together, I never once bought her roses, chocolates or jewelry, although she might have gotten into my chocolate a time or two. What lady hasn’t acted upon that temptation?
I never took her to a fancy restaurant, but she did eat the best food money could buy.
We never once shared a bottle of wine. She was one of those girls who preferred water over anything else.
Traveling was a passion that we both shared. There was nothing we enjoyed more than hitting the open highway with the windows rolled down and music turned up. We both enjoyed the freshness of the air as it blew in our faces. I don’t think she cared for my music but she never once complained about it.
I’ve spent every Valentine’s Day since 1998 with my girl, excluding the three I spent while deployed. She was always very supportive and understood my duties and obligations as a soldier.
When I returned from my third all-expense paid trip to Iraq in 2011, she was fully supportive and happy to see me but I could tell the repeated deployments were taking its toll on our relationship. I vowed to repair any damage that had been done.
For the next year and a half, our love blossomed like never before and grew to heights that I never could have imagined on March 31, 1997, when we first met.
She wasn’t the kind of girl that needed to be showered with lavish gifts. She simply needed to be showered with love and affection.
Sometimes her breath smelled like death warmed over but I would still kiss her on the mouth as I scratched behind her ear. She really liked for me to rub her belly.
She was one of 11 Labrador Retrievers born on Jan 31, 1997. Choosing which puppy to take home that day proved to be a very difficult choice, so I walked away with hopes that one would choose me.
By God’s good grace, one of the pups, one with a little white patch on its chest, chose to follow me and would continue to do so for the next 15 plus years.
Her name was Chyna and she was the love of my life.
I’m not overstating that. She really was. I got her when I was just a 24 year old boy but she stayed with me until I was a 40 year old man.
I learned so much from her. She never judged me and always taught me to love unconditionally, even when she was leaving streaks on my carpet by riding her invisible motorcycle around the living room.
In early 2012, her age began to catch up with her. It’ll happen to the best of us. I could see the writing on the wall. It was inevitable.
I had a scare in the spring. I thought the time had come to make that dreaded decision. I even dug a hole in my back yard. I vowed to never let her suffer in order to support my selfishness.
Fortunately, this was not her time. I was blessed to be given a few more months with my girl. I planted a crabapple tree in that hole and referred to it as my “Chyna tree.”
“50 Shades of Gray” with the wind blowing in her face.
On July 30, 2012, I had to make the decision. Although incredibly painful, it was an easy decision to make. I knew the time had come.
I cried on the way to the vet. I cried as I carried her in and laid her on the table. Heck, I’m crying now.
I held her in my arms as the vet injected her with the concoction that would take away her pain and send her to heaven.
I’m not sure how long I stayed. It seemed like an eternity. I didn’t want to leave her, because she was the love of my life.
Love isn’t measured by material things. Chyna didn’t need to keep up with the Jones’ dog; she simply needed to be loved.
We all need to love and need to know what it feels like to be loved. Pets are no exception.
By the way, if your dog is riding his or her invisible motorcycle around your house, please let your veterinarian know so that it can be taken care of. It’s a smelly, yet inexpensive, procedure but your “best friend” will love you forever.