She was loving and gentle, warm and good-natured, but she was also a big scaredy-cat, spooked most of the time by her own shadow.
She was my dog.
Her name was Camellia and she was a beautiful, dark brown Golden Retriever. She loved doggie cookies, turkey, belly rubs, snow and her stuffed Lamb Chop toy.
And a year ago this month, I had to say goodbye to her.
That September day was one of the worst of my life. She had been sick for about a week or so before and kept going downhill. The veterinarians did everything they could. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for not giving up on her.
She fought, still wagging her tail even on her last day with us. We waited with her and hoped and prayed that time would heal her broken body, but that day never came.
Now, she’s at peace. I’d like to think with my grandparents who take her for walks and make her Thanksgiving dinner every day.
Still, a year later, my heart aches. So, in hopes of healing just a little bit more, I write this tribute to a girl’s best friend.
Camellia came into my life as the tiniest puppy. I had lost another dog a few years before that, and I missed Rosie very much (still do, actually).
This Golden Retriever could never heal the hole in my heart that beagle had left, but I found a whole bunch more love for Camellia. It’s funny how that happens!
As she grew, so did my affection for her, and so did her loyalty to my family.
Camellia saw me through some painful times. The losses of my grandma, and my great-grandma, who I fondly remember called her “The Horse,” as well as the passing of my uncle. Also, the particularly difficult time when my cousin passed away doing what he loved most.
Seeing her wagging tail was also the best stress reliever after a tough day.
But she was there in happy times, too. Family parties, my college graduation, years of Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas mornings.
Even days when nothing all that memorable happened she would pick up a toy and insist on a game of tug of war, or lay down on the floor next to the couch and fall asleep as I lost myself in a great book.
My favorite memories of her might be her frolicking in the snow. Camellia loved the snow. She might have been the only one in Pittsburgh who did!
She would bury her head in a big mound, tunnel through heaps, fling it around, and lay in it just to feel the cool on her belly. When she got to be an older dog, nothing brought out the puppy in her quite like a good snowfall.
In direct comparison, nothing scared her quite like thunderstorms. Camellia would tear the house apart looking for a hiding place at the first sounds of a low rumble in the distance.
Nothing helped her. From medication to those supposed anxiety-reducing pet vests they advertise on TV, she would just continue to quiver and cower in fear until the storms passed by.
As time passes by now, and my memories of her get farther away, all I can think about is seeing her one more time, having her welcome me home, hearing her squeaky toy again or her collar jiggling around the house. You take those little things for granted.
But Camellia and her furry spirit still live on in my heart, warming it with sweet memories of slobbery kisses.
She was a sweet girl and the very definition of a good dog. And while I’m not sure I’ll ever fully get over her loss, I know I’m better for having loved and known her.
There’s nothing quite like that special bond between people and their pets. Some will never understand it, but for those of us who do, well, we know how extraordinary it is.
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