Ache in my Bones…


All I can focus on is the snow; a white blanket that seamlessly covers the ground, leaving the world a silent, emotionless wasteland, icicles that dangle precariously from the window, water dripping in a steady, rhythmic beat that matches my heart pounding in my ears, and my heavy breathing that causes fog to slowly obscure the view of the driveway. No matter how hard I try to focus on something, anything, else, the sound of the snow crunching underneath my dad’s tires as he pulls into my driveway is unmistakable. My heart plummets. I already know what he’s going to tell me.

When I was five years old, my dad came home with a little 11-week-old puppy that he had adopted from the Nebraska Humane Society. After seeing the litter of labrador mixes on their website, my father raced down to the shelter to claim him before anyone else could, and brought him to us, completely unexpected. As kids, me and my siblings instantly adored him, but my stepmother had her reasonable concerns: how our cats were going to react, who would walk him and take care of him, how big he would grow. All of our concerns were thrown aside as our hearts melted at his long, floppy ears and warm, brown eyes.

We named him Bones, after the Huskers, and he instantly became part of our family. He could be a bit mischievous at times, but what dog hasn’t eaten half a Nintendo DS and a whole bag of potatoes? He got along fantastically with our two cats and rarely gave us any real headaches. As my little sister was born, he would sit with her and just stare at her like she was the greatest thing he had ever laid his big brown eyes on. I would take him on walks, just him and I, down to the lake in our neighborhood and we would just sit there. We would stare out onto the water together, though I couldn’t even begin to guess what he could have been thinking. Years later, when I finally got my own room he began to sleep in my bed every night. Even though said bed was a twin – and I woke up on the floor more times than not – I finally stopped having nightmares when he was there for me to hold. During times in my life when I thought I was completely alone, he would always be there by my bedside, patiently waiting for me to drum my hands on the blanket as his signal to jump on up. 

Time went on. We started to notice he wasn’t eating as much, that his ribs peeked out a bit more than they used to. He would get tired more easily, and not get as excited about fetch as he would have before. My parents decided to take him to the vet to investigate, expecting something minor.

But as my dad pulled into my mom’s snow covered driveway that evening, I knew something wasn’t right. If everything was fine surely they would’ve just called, or sent a text. I gathered every last bit of strength I had and made the trek out to the car.

Bone Cancer. Kind of ironic isn’t it? Bones’ bones were the ones that were failing him. I was completely and utterly blindsided. Eight years did not seem that old for a dog, yet there we were, scheduling the date we would see him for the final time. Those next few days I can’t remember if I cried. I refused to believe it was happening. Even as we gave him his last meal, steak with green beans and mashed potatoes, a meal fit for a king, I still couldn’t wrap my head around it. I don’t think it fully hit me until the car ride to the vet. This would be the last time I would hold my best friend in my arms. Yet, tears still didn’t come. 

We arrived. We all were asked whether or not we wanted to be in the room. My dad made the decision for me; I would wait outside. I regret that I wasn’t there for him, like he was there for me on my worst nights. I finally began to cry when he went with my stepmother into the other room. I don’t know when exactly I stopped but it must’ve not been till we got back home. There was no one there to greet us at the door. No tail wagging or excited barks. No sounds of claws clacking as someone raced around in circles on the wood floors. The silence was deafening. 

I sat at the kitchen table that night, holding his collar. I separated his two rabies vaccination tags, as he never had one with his name on it. I took off my own necklace and slipped the charm off the end and replaced it with one of the tags. I put the necklace back on, and have been wearing it for the better part of three years.

I will never forget the first dog I ever had. He meant everything to me. I know a lot of people would say that it’s just a dog and that I couldn’t possibly still be upset about him passing, but I know in my heart that he wasn’t just a dog. Not really. To me, he was my rock, a constant in a life that was ever-changing. Bones represented stability to me, and when he was suddenly ripped out of my life, that stability was shattered. March 2 of this year will mark the third anniversary of his death, and not a single day, or a single snow has gone by where I haven’t missed him with an ache as deep as my bones.