Dear Old Puppy (Because you will always be my puppy, regardless of your age),

I remember taking you home for the first time. I sat in the back of the car because I wanted to be with you the whole time. You were terrified, but you learned to love car rides, especially when they involved a stop at the pizza place. You weren’t very smart (you still aren’t), but you passed puppy obedience school. It’s not so much that you’re a dumb dog, you’re just stubborn more than anything. I haven’t ridden a school bus in six years, but you still bark when the bus drives by.

You never chewed up shoes-- you preferred the finer things in life, like electric cords, Christmas candy or full slices of pizza that were left unsupervised for more than ten seconds. We couldn’t give you anything with a squeaker either because you have more fun with that than with the toy it came in.

You were always a warrior, a protector. You love Mom more than you love me, but that’s fine. I was afraid you’d go crazy when she went to visit friends for a week and I was left to take care of you, but that week couldn’t have gone any better. You’ve scared off three cats, several boyfriends and countless mailmen, and you’ve defended our front lawn from every squirrel that dared approach. You’re the reason that I preferred going over to other friends’ houses rather than bring them here. The vet turned us away once because you were “too rambunctious” and we’ll probably always have to muzzle you when you go to the groomer.

I know it’s getting harder for you to do the things you’ve always loved. You need help getting up on the bed at night and you whine when you have to go out, even though you never used to. You sleep all day and you take more pills than any human I know. You don’t always hear me when I call your name, you’re going blind, and every time I see you, you have more grey fur around your nose and eyes. Sometimes, you seem confused, like you don’t totally know where you are. Mom says you have “Doggy Alzheimer’s.”

I’m already prepared for the phone call from my mom saying that you’re sick and she has no other choice. That I should come home if I can to say goodbye, because you’re in pain, or there’s no hope, and it’s time to put you down. I keep thinking that I’m going to come home for break and you won’t be here anymore. You’re already older than most dogs of your breed, so I know it won’t be long now, but you’re still fighting. Thank you for all the years you’ve given me, and for whatever time you have left with me.