Six years ago I was grieving a tragic situation that happened to me while on my study abroad. I came home and decided I needed a dog to bring some joy into my life. I visited the Norman Animal Shelter with my then-boyfriend, Michael. I didn’t really see any dogs I liked, until Michael told me to give the chubby dog in the last kennel a chance. He seemed overweight, and dopey, but I listened. When I opened the gate and slipped the nylon collar over his rotund neck, the dog bowed down on one shoulder and wagged his tail in the air like he’d never been happier to see anyone. When I took him outside to play, he was overjoyed! He wagged excitedly, and paced around with his nose to the ground, smelling the world around him with the frenzied intensity as, I was to learn, all Beagles do.
As we were signing the adoption paperwork, I was informed that the local news would be stopping by to tape a story on his adoption. Little did I know, he was the first dog to be adopted from the animal shelter with the home again microchip.
When the crew arrived, they interviewed me on why I was adopting, and what I liked about dogs. I had to diplomatically explain that I’ve always had dogs, and loved the experience of being a pet owner. At one point, while bending over my dog, petting his belly exaggeratedly, I innocently said, “the mircochip is a great idea, it means now he’ll never get away!”. They then taped me walking him down the sidewalk and putting him into the car and that was that.
That evening, while watching the news with a group of friends, my piece came on — to my embarrassment. They described the microchip program that Yango was participating in, and that he was being adopted out; all while airing cropped clips of my legs walking him down the sidewalk, or my hands petting him over his floppy ears. Then came the clip that embarrasses me to this day: “And what does this pet owner have to say about the program?” – the scene changes over to a tight crop of me, from the elbows down, creepily petting my dog’s belly while saying “now he’ll never get away!” in the most sultry, weird way I could have possibly said it. Of course my deep voice would come across as weird out of context! Of course my lack of self-awareness meant I was petting my dog weird from that angle. Couldn’t I have said something, anything else? Sheesh.
It was pretty funny to my friends, but mostly embarrassing to me. It’s a story I have happily re-told to many people over the years only after the the clip had disappeared from existence, and long after the sting of wide-spread embarrassment dissolved.
Yango and I enjoyed our first few years together running, walking and in Yango’s case specifically, escaping around Norman. Yango’s broad furry shoulders were cried on during break-ups, bon voyages, and other rough patches in my young adult life. His big brown eyes were always filled with compassion, and his heart never sought to judge me for misbehaviors or mistakes I made.
His loyalty was everything to me.
When I got married, moved across the country, then ultimately had Margot, Yango was always by my side. If I went upstairs, he was right behind me, albeit at his own pace. He was permanently laid up against whatever couch, desk, or table I was at, ready to be there if I should happen to distribute affection. Yango was at my feet every single time I wrote a post on this blog, just happy to be in my presence.
We received bad news from the vet almost two years ago. My boy had cancer, and she didn’t think he’d have more than a few months to live. We knew his number would be up at any time, but we didn’t know we’d be blessed with two more years of his loyalty.
Margot came home from the hospital to a non-chalant Yango, who had the confidence of a dog who had been through all these life experiences before. He knew how to behave in every situation. It was a great comfort to have Yango’s reliability at that time, because we had to say goodbye to our other dog for behavioral issues with our newborn. It was heartbreaking to say goodbye to Iggy, and it was especially hard because we knew Yango wouldn’t be too far behind, but for other reasons.
This weekend, we came home from Anchorage to our friend in a poor state of health. While we were gone, it seemed as though Yango had begun to let go. Maybe it was easier to do so because we weren’t there to make a departure more difficult on him. We came home to a dog who had soiled himself, couldn’t walk, and breathed heavily. He stumbled into doorways, and collapsed every few steps. We resolved to take him to the vet the following morning.
Today, the vet confirmed that Yango did not have vestibular disease, which would have been ideal (recovery would have come in just a few days). The doctor said the cancer had very obviously spread to his lungs, which had weakened him to his current state. It was unlikely that he would walk again, or recover at all. It was clear what needed to be done.
At the end, he smiled, wagged his tail, and then he was gone. I held my best friend as the electricity of life left his body. The vet waited patiently for me to regain my composure before he slipped off Yango’s collar and handed it back to me. That heart wrenching moment could not have been farther, emotionally, from the moment I first slipped that nylon collar over his neck at the animal shelter, when I knew this happy dog was mine forever.