I truly believe that beings come into your life for a reason. And I know that my dog, Dallas, came into my life for a very specific reason. She was there to teach me a number of things, most importantly, how to be a better mom before I ever became one.
It was the summer of 2006. I was living as a newlywed in New York City with my husband, David. We lived in Union Square, an area that is a hot spot and bustling with action. People everywhere! But that’s not all who frequents the area. There are lots of animal rescue groups who set up camp with their adoptable pets all around the park. And that is where I fell in love.
there she was! All 10 lbs. of her perfect two-month old self. She was found on the streets of the Bronx, and once I locked eyes with her, I think we both knew. Now, keep in mind that I already had a two year old Rottie/German Shepherd puppy named Tex, who shared our small NYC one bedroom. But that didn’t matter. My heart was open and ready, and that’s all that mattered.
So she came to live in her NYC-based forever home with us. Until we moved cross-country to Los Angeles a few months later.
Because of the pups, we opted to drive them to LA, rather than put them into a cargo-hold of an airplane. So that meant road trip! We stopped with our dogs in cities across the country-Memphis, Dallas, riding the sand dunes in the Texas desert, El Paso, Phoenix and finally, Beverly Hills, our new home.
Those early years with our two dogs (and then two more, so four total!) were some of the best: going long walks around the sprawling Beverly Hills neighborhoods, road tripping to Napa and Palm Desert with them, swimming, taking them out to eat with us at sidewalk restaurants, and even sneaking all four of them at the crack of dawn on Will Rogers State Beach!
Cut to 2014 and the birth of our beloved daughter, Bray. As you can probably imagine, I was an unprepared, nervous, and anxious new mom who was just trying to live day-by-day and figure this whole mommy hood thing out. Also, I wasn’t quite sure about how the dogs would take to our newest plus one.
After driving literally 20 mph home from Cedars-Sinai with our baby in tow, we arrived home to our then three dogs (RIP Tex). And who was the first one to greet baby Bray? None other than Dallas. In fact, they were completely smitten with each other. From that moment, she sat next to Bray’s bassinet, and never left her side. From tummy time, to jumping on the trampoline (did you ever hear of a shepherd who liked to jump!?!), and even being coaxed into playing unicorn and princess dress-up, she was the ultimate big sister. Actually, David and I would joke about how she was the perfect nanny, so patient, so kind, so loving, so gentle, and with a natural maternal instinct.
I am, traditionally, a very impatient person. Patience is not my virtue. But that is one of the many things I learned from Dallas. I would absolutely credit her with teaching me how to care for someone other than myself, unconditional love, and to feel comfortable with expressing my love, all in, to whom I see fit.
Things were going swimmingly until we got a kick in the stomach last April 2017. After feeling lethargic, Dallas wasn’t her usual self. So I took her into the vet who ran some tests and we got the devastating diagnosis of canine lymphoma. I felt the wind knocked out of me when I got that phone call. After the tears flowed, I asked him how can we fight this? And so, we were referred to City of Angels, one of the premiere vet cancer hospitals in LA, if not, the country.
We were entrusted into the loving care of Dr. Elizabeth Schuh, who held our hand through the tears and cheered with us when Dallas went into remission. There was lots of chemo cocktails for Dallas, but she held her head high, was strong, and took every treatment with her positive attitude and beautiful smile.
I was so happy when we got that remission news in September. I danced and sang, “we did it!” in the lobby of the vet clinic as Elizabeth and I hugged. And even though her remission was short-lived, it was a happy time. We went on walks together, Dallas kept up with Bray and her many play demands, and she even resumed her position as the “fun patrol” of the other dogs, always jumping in the middle of their play time and demanding attention.
But in November 2017, her dreaded cancer returned. We tried several different chemo combinations and rescue protocols, but the cancer was too aggressive. So when she started going into respiratory distress this morning, I immediately transferred her to ACCESS Emergency Animal Hospital for attention.
I knew in the back of my head that this was probably it, but I didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t want to fail Dallas, and I wanted to exhaust every avenue possible to help save her. But when the realization of what was happening and when the emergency room vet, Dr. Gonzalez, explained to me how grave her condition was and that she would probably not rebound from this, I knew her fate was sealed.
But that didn’t make the decision any easier. Of course, I put her best interests first, but it hurt like hell, and left a hole in my heart that I feel will never heal.
And so when she made her transition today, I was right there. I am so thankful that I got to hold her, smother her in my kisses, and soak her cheeks with my salty tears. I looked directly into her eyes and whispered how much I loved her, to watch over us, and to please come visit when she could. After all, she is family, and that will never change. And I thanked her for all of the love and that I hoped she knew how much of my heart that she held. And then she peacefully passed.
After we talked tonight about Dallas not being physically here anymore and about Doggie Heaven, my daughter asked me if I was sad about Dallas. Using all of my strength to choke back the tears and the lump welling up in the back of my throat, and trying desperately not to completely lose it in front of my child, I managed to utter, “A little bit, baby.” If only she knew. Without hesitation, she gave me a huge hug, and said, “Don’t worry Mommy, Dallas will be back.” I certainly hope so.
Dallas, thank you for giving me the gift of your love. You taught me so much. There isn’t a moment that passes that I am not grateful for you coming into my life. To say my heart is broken into a million little pieces would be a huge understatement. I can only hope that you felt my love and devotion to you. I think you did. But just know I was the lucky one. Signed, your Mommy. I love you so, my sweet, sweet girl. Rest in peace now.