Dogs lives are too short. Their only fault, really.

It wasn’t my intention to write two dog posts back to back but, it’s how the days fall. Two years ago today, I said goodbye to the then love of my life, when she fell victim to stomach cancer. Chloe came home with me when I was 21 and living in Tuscaloosa, AL. She was only 4 weeks old but despite my pleas the owners wouldn’t keep her with her mother any longer and were sending the babies to the pound. They lied and told me they were eating soft food on their own. When I put milk in a saucer that night the little thing cried trying to figure out how to suck it up. Off I went to get a bottle.

Thus began my journey with Chloe and formed the beginnings of the bond we shared for 11 awesome years. Chloe was part Black Lab, part Chow and the mix of the two breeds was perfection. She had enough Lab to keep her mellow and enough Chow to keep her tough and protective… and protective she WAS of me. She ignored most people and scared the hell out of the ones that needed scaring. I never made a move that went unnoticed by her.

She was stoic, unshakable and faithful beyond measure. She loved going anywhere and everywhere with me. I took her most places too. We ran, swam, hiked, and kayaked together. She came along and watched me skydive. She vacationed in Key West with me, frequented Pensacola Beach, absorbed the humid heat and hurricanes on the Gulf Coast and the weathered the brutal winters in New England.

Everywhere my crazy 20’s took me (and trust me, that was MANY places and a lot of moving), she came along, ready to defend and support. She wouldn’t go outside during rain though. Once, during Hurricane Georges (which sat over Mobile Bay for days dumping flooding rains), she refused to go out to relieve herself for more than 24 hours, until the rain subsided.

Chloe had the most knowing eyes. She knew without words, she understood what I meant before I could even think to convey it. In many ways I was less her mom than she was mine. A friend once remarked that when he looked at Chloe he felt like he was looking into the deep, knowing eyes of a human.

My final move to Knoxville was the last Chloe would make with me. Shortly after arriving here she started to get sick, lost weight rapidly and couldn’t keep food down. The decline was mercifully quick, but in usual fashion, she held on for me. When it became apparent that her survival was only for me I would no longer allow her to suffer. A kind and compassionate vet came to my home and helped her rest and relieve her pain.

As anyone who knew me in my 20’s could attest, Chloe was a permanent fixture for me… always with me, by my side, relaxed, but ready for whatever may come next. When Chloe was 8 I brought Hayley home. Chloe was firm but accepting of the little one, and it is thanks to her that Hayley is so well trained today. Chloe knew she was leaving me in capable “paws” with Hayley. I didn’t realize until we lost Chloe that Hayley hadn’t even been mine… she was 100% Chloe’s.

I was in the first (and most intense) semester of MBA school when I lost Chloe and I’m still not sure how I made it through, though I’m pretty certain it had a lot to do with Hayley. Losing a dog (especially for those of us who do not have human children) is almost unbearable. It’s the kind of pain that makes you question why we get dogs in the first place.

Right after the vet told me what a short time Chloe had left I spent days crying and mourning until it dawned on me… Chloe wasn’t dead yet. So I decided to make every single day as happy and fun as I could for as long as she was with me. We celebrated all the great years, went to the park for swimming and play time, had all the treats and paw massages possible.

And in that I managed to hold on to the reason we adopt dogs in the first place. We make a deal with them when we bring them home. We are going to outlive them…. they are simply going to die much sooner than us. But in exchange for their short lives, they give more love than we could ask for in one of our lifetimes. It’s just more intense for a shorter time. I could not have asked for a better dog than Chloe, and I’m pretty sure I’ll never find one. But I will always celebrate the fact that I was fortunate enough to have Chloe and, in spite of my youth and ignorance, I think she was pretty lucky to have me too.