Dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole.— Roger Caras.
On a cold December afternoon, I found a little girl my husband would later name Winberry. My heart was broken, completely wrecked by the loss of my first furry best friend, Charlie, and it was seeking refuge in the paws of a little bouncy ball of fur.
You see everyone says their dog is special–and none of them are wrong. Charlie was special and he was mine. I spent most of my early 20’s running from my fears and fighting the typical battles that come with growing up. Charlie was my ultimate protector. During my highs, his tail wagged endlessly reflecting my mood. During my lows, he burrowed his face in the blankets hoping to find his melancholy-filled girl so he could pull her back up and start again. He was the drum beat to my heartbeat, keeping the tempo to my life. But more importantly, Charlie was there for every heartbreak and he was there when I found true love–Jay.
For a little, it was just the three of us–happy. Charlie had found his dad and I had found a man who let me fearlessly chase my every dream, filling my heart and life with love and light. And as I was my finding my footing, Charlie was losing his. By the time we had brought Lexington into our family, Charlie had fallen down the deepest tunnel of anguish and despair. Lost in his own fears, I could no longer reach him. There was no cure for his pain, there was no vet that could make him better, and soon his sickness took up every part of him. He had spent years protecting me, and I had failed him. I had failed to keep his monsters at bay, to relieve the pain that didn’t let his mind settle, and as quickly as he came into my life, Charlie was gone. His pain filled me, his absence too immense to bear. I had failed my sweet little boy and there was no bringing him back. “The heart was meant to be broken” and so mine did.
Enter Winberry–named after the restaurant where my husband and I first met. A curly-haired little doodle (because there was no replacing Charlie, a wheaten, with another wheaten). In fact, Charlie and Lexington would be the last of our wheatens, singular and unique, there would be no other perfect wheaten duo for us. We nicknamed her Winnie, a name my husband has an affection for ever since he was crushing on Winnie Cooper from the Wonder Years.
Today, the little girl I cuddled up to on my saddest of days turns 3, and I chose this moment to reflect on the joy she has brought to our life. She is the reprieve my heart desperately needed and continues to need from the loss of Charlie. Winnie is more than a dog, she is the glue of our family, and the beginning to the story of Lexington & Winberry. Where there is darkness, she shines bright. Where there is a dull moment, she brings a slobbery wet tennis ball to spice up the mood. And when I find myself deep in the shadows of the loss of my very best friend, she lends a paw to bring me back to the present and fills my heart with gratitude. There would be no Winberry without Charlie. And there would be no us without Winberry, so happy birthday, little girl–my purest form of joy.