When I was thirteen years old, my parents said I could choose a puppy or a sapphire ring for my birthday.
I chose Rylee, a black-and-tan mini dachshund, from Chandler, Oklahoma (could she be any cuter?). We sat her next to an empty Coke can to see how tiny she was. And as small as she was, she took up a huge space in my heart.
The first time we took her swimming, we knew her instincts would kick in and she’d doggy-paddle like every other dog in the world.
I say to you, Nay. That is not what happened.
My sister put her in the pool and not only did Rylee not paddle, but she also sank to the bottom like lead. We dove underwater to pull her back up, and she was just fine—except for her bulging eyes that clearly said, “I’m going to ruin your carpet later for this.”
After that, she never much liked swimming. Or water.
One sunny afternoon, Rylee wandered in the backyard, looking for a nice, grassy spot to roll in—because my allergies weren’t bad enough already. That’s when she saw a lovely lady fox. Or the fox saw her. We’re still not sure.
Regardless, the fight was on.
Have you ever heard a grown woman yell at a dog to leave a fox alone? You have? Okay, that was my mom you heard.
The fox stood still while Rylee, the mini doxie, ran a hundred circles around the fox, barking like Cujo on steroids. You know those race stripes dogs get on their backs when they’re really peeved? Rylee’s started from her nose to the tip of her stubby tail. The fox got smart, though, and took off before Rylee self-destructed.
Like many of us, as she got older, Rylee got fatter. We dubbed her Fatty Patty, because we aren’t that original with names. When she walked—er, waddled—her enormous belly dragged to the ground, which, I must say, was one of her better features.
She smelled all the time. I bathed her twice a week, and that wasn’t enough to mask the musky stench that emitted from her body. If I could pinpoint what it was, I would say it smelled like a mixture of chronic halitosis and dead feet.
When Rylee’s immune system started shutting down, I knew what had to happen but refused. I let her suffer because I was selfish and didn’t want to give her up. I didn’t want to be responsible for terminating her life; I wanted her to die naturally.
But she didn’t die naturally, because that ole girl just refused to go. Instead, I was forced to make a decision I never wanted to make. I could either watch her barely walk, her body deteriorating, or I could say good-bye to my little baby.
We all know the kind of endless companionship that comes from a best friend. Sometimes being a best friend means making sacrifices we don’t want to make. It means choosing something that’s not so great for us because it’ll be so much better for someone else.
When I hugged her one last time, I told Rylee, “I love you.”
And I think, looking back on her amazing, long life, she said the same thing too.