49: A License to Love

49: A License to Love

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

A License to Love

Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet.

~Colette

It was love at first sight. The first time I held him in my arms, I knew I had to have him. No, it wasn’t a man who won my affections! It was a Peek-a-Poo dubbed Micado by the boyfriend who bought him for me. “Cado” was small in size, but big on attitude. He resembled a gremlin and had an under-bite that made you quietly giggle every time you looked at him. His vocabulary was impressive. He understood words like ride, walk, kids, potty, bed, eat, bath, and especially ice cream! But it was more than that. He intently studied my face when I talked to him, trying to understand what I was saying. Even if he couldn’t understand my words, he always seemed to know what I was feeling. We had a deep connection, an unbreakable bond.

Cado seemed to think it was his God-given right to be pampered and I certainly did my best to oblige! After fifteen Christmases, he learned to open gifts and came to expect his own when everyone got theirs. In fact, one year I didn’t buy or wrap any presents for him. Not a problem, he just opened mine! Needless to say, he never had another gift-less Christmas!

As he started to age and developed typical senior maladies, I tried to prepare for the eventuality of life without my loyal companion. I told myself that as long as he was happy and not in pain, I would not let him go. I also made a silent promise that I would never let him suffer, but would do the right thing if it got to that point. In spite of arthritis, he continued to play. We took shorter walks. When he lost his appetite, I changed his diet from dry dog food to canned dog food, then to people food like soups, rice and broth.

When he couldn’t keep any food down for several days straight, we made the emergency trip to the vet’s office. It was a Friday. X-rays and ultrasound showed what appeared to be a large tumor on his stomach. I had three choices — surgery, an agonizing death when the tumor burst (as it was sure to do within days) or euthanasia. Surgery offered no guarantees and I couldn’t put him through such an ordeal. There was really only one option. I wanted his last moments on earth to be peaceful. I would be with him to the end. I wanted the last face he saw to be mine and his last memories to be the overwhelming love I had for him. The shot was administered and the vet left the room. Cado’s eyes were fixed on me while I softly told him how glad I was to have had him in my life, how much I would miss him and how we would someday meet again. His eyes slowly closed and he was gone.

I can’t even begin to describe the sadness and loneliness I felt at the loss of my Micado. For many nights, I lay in bed clutching his favorite sweater and crying myself to sleep. Eventually I started visiting local animal shelters and the pet refuge looking for a dog to fill the huge empty place in my heart. But every visit resulted in the same outcome. None of the dogs, no matter how sweet, how playful, how deserving, were Micado. No dog measured up to him. I just couldn’t disrespect his memory by allowing another dog to take his place in my home or in my heart.

I continued to grieve for about a year. Then one night, Micado came to me in a dream. In this dream, I looked out my living room window to see my front yard filled with hundreds of dogs, all sizes, colors and breeds! As I stood there in awe, a voice said, “They are here for you. I want another dog to know the kind of love you gave to me. Pick me up so I can see them too!” It was Micado. I picked him up, and as I held him in my arms, I could truly feel the weight and warmth of his body against mine. I could feel the love he had for me. As he and I surveyed the dogs outside, I reluctantly awakened from the comforting moments I had spent with him. As I thought about the strange and powerful dream, a deep understanding washed over me. The bond between us had transcended death. Micado had come back to ease my pain. He had come back to let me know that he knew how much I loved him and that his special place in my heart would never be threatened, even by another dog. He was there to let me know he didn’t want me to be lonely or sad any longer.

A few weeks after the dream, a message went out to all users on our corporate e-mail system advertising a Shih Tzu free to a good home. I was the first of fifteen callers and told the young doctor’s wife about Micado, my loss, and finally being ready to get another dog. I made arrangements to meet Xander that very night. Although they had many responses to the e-mail, they told me they had no plans to interview other people. If I was interested, Xander was mine. In spite of Xander’s complete disinterest in me (in fact he growled, barked and would not let me near him), I knew he was the one. I knew I would take him home with me and win him over. That was four years ago. Xander is not Micado, but he doesn’t need to be. Xander is very special in his own right and I pamper him shamelessly! He has found a permanent home and a lasting place in my heart. He can thank Micado for that.

~Luann Warner

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