Yesterday, at just after 1:30 in the morning, we lost our Newfoundland, Finn. I can't even put into words how much I'm going to miss him. Which is problematic, since this is a blog and it's kinda built around the ability to put things into words. But then, as my wife, Katy, and I went through our favorite photos on our computers, I stumbled across an essay I wrote for the Duluth News Tribune back in October 2008, just a few days after we brought him home.
Turns out that the me of 5 years ago was able to put it into words. So, I'm just going to let him do the talking:
My wife and I recently celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. The fifth anniversary is supposed to be wood, but we decided that there was a much better symbol of the strength of our bond – a puppy.
We brought home our 9-week-old Newfoundland puppy, Finn, a few days before our anniversary, and we laughed and hugged him the whole ride home, so happy to now be a family. It was postcard-perfect.
Then I got about two hours of sleep as the puppy whined, cried and peed on everything in sight.
The next morning I told one of my co-workers – who has toddlers – that I’m beginning to know what being a parent feels like. She laughed in my face.
I asked another of my co-workers, one with teenage boys, if raising a puppy is anything like having a child. He laughed too, but for a different reason.
“A baby’s kinda easy at first,” he said, “All it does is eat, sleep and poop. You don’t get much sleep, sure, but it’s not chewing on your furniture or running away from you – it can’t even run.”
“But kids get more challenging, right?” I asked, wondering if instead of buying my wife a puppy I should have just knocked her up.
“God yes,” he replied, his tone turning darker, “Put it this way, when Finn’s older you won’t have to worry about him hanging out with the dog down the street, you know, the one with the spiked collar? You’re not going to have to worry about Finn smoking crack or crashing your new car.”
But the idea of a calm dog a year from now wasn’t helping my current panic. So I went to someone I knew would understand. John Grogan is the author of “Marley and Me”, a bestselling book (soon to be a major motion picture) about his life with “the worst dog in the world.” I had to find out if getting a puppy when we were enjoying our carefree early marriage years was a mistake. Since Grogan and his wife got Marley at the same period in their marriage, I knew he could relate – and maybe assuage my fears.
“Marley came into our lives right at that special juncture when we were attempting to meld two individual lives into
one shared relationship,” Grogan says. “Marley, in all his goofy glory, became inextricably woven into the fabric of what became us.”
“Commitment matters,” he continues, “That ‘in good times and bad, in sickness and in health’ really means something. We didn't give up on Marley when it would have been easy to, and in the end he came through and proved himself a great and memorable pet.”
Then second night I came from work to find Finn napping on the floor at my wife’s feet. She smiled sleepily at me and I was struck by something: yes a puppy is not a baby, but we ... well, we ARE a family.
That little black fur ball gives us something to care for together, to love together, to protect together.
All the struggle is worth it because he’s worth it. This responsibility he’s given us, well that’s the best symbol of the strength of our bond that I’ve found yet.
After all, jewelry is pretty, but it doesn’t need you to let it out so it can pee.
Goodnight, Finny Axel. We love you very much. See you in a couple of naps.