A tight-knit bond

I’m 56 years old. I honestly thought that I was past intensive hands-on parenting. I have found myself administering liquid pink “bubble gum” medicine, better known as amoxicillin. I have bought diapers and waterproof pads. I have been awakened nearly every morning for nearly three years by the sound of someone who wanted me to get up and make breakfast.

We re-homed a sweet little longhaired chihuahua almost three years ago from our vet, The Good Doctor Brennan. Dr. B saved this little lad’s life and Paco was destined to be the Clinic Mascot. However, Dr. B also knew that Paco would do very well in a family. But it had to be a family he knew well and a family that needed Paco as much as he would need the family. I was honored that he called us and said, “Hey . . . I have a dog I want you to meet.”

By far, Paco was the smallest dog I ever had in my family. These tiny doggos should weigh less than eight pounds as a full-grown adult. A forever puppy with an adult dog personality.

While it was love at first sight for his humans, it took some effort to knit a tight bond. He trained us to be aware of him (under our feet at all times) and he taught us how to earn his trust. Our little lad came to us at age eight and settled into our hearts and our home.

Over the past few weeks, his health took a dramatic turn. We poured all we had into caring for him. Dr. B was impressed at my daughter’s thorough understanding of him, his symptoms, and how to treat him.

Paco’s health continued to deteriorate, despite all efforts, and Dr. B prepared us that we might need to make the decision to let him go. We cried for days as we provided hospice care to our sweet dog. He was ready. We were not.

We made the appointment with Dr. B. and I was the designated one to walk in and hand him over to the staff. They loved him too and there were tears all around. We didn’t feel the need to be present when his soul left his little body and we also felt that needed to be a moment for Dr. B.

We haven’t picked up his things around the house yet and it will be sometime before we stop wondering where he is or imagining that we are hearing him coming down the hall. He had a “backward sneeze”; an interesting little quirk that some dogs have. It made him quack in a uniquely adorable way. He didn’t bark unless there was someone new in the house, which has been especially rare this past year. Still, our house is very quiet without him.

When my mother died, my heart had a difficult time finding an image of peace for her. When her beloved golden died several months after her death, that story of the rainbow bridge came up. It’s a lovely image of our pets waiting for us in heaven, the afterlife, or wherever your heart lies. The picture of my now-healthy mother reuniting with her dog gave me peace. However, my mother had dogs for the entirety of her life. Brownie, Major, Gigi, Janis Ruth, Leo, Sam, and Riley. I’m sure there are others from her childhood that I can’t recall from memory. They are all in this peaceful image – from Great Danes and mixed mutts, to a Poodle, Collie, and Golden Retriever. This is her heaven.

As a single mom, I felt that a dog would be like having one more child to care for. My budget was squeezed to the limits. Paco came to us at the right time and changed us forever. He reminded me that dogs have always been an important part of my life and should be for my children. We’ll take our time to grieve and respectfully put Paco’s things away. Maybe by then a new dog who needs our family as much as we’ll need them will appear. Until then, we’re smiling through our tears.


Published by Laura Nelson Lof

I'm a lifelong Iowan and a proud alum of The University of Iowa. I'm a writer, an armchair political scientist, and an accomplished sports spectator.

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