The Air I Breathe

July 14, 2017
“It takes a minute to find a special someone, an hour to appreciate them, and a day to love them, but it takes an entire lifetime to forget them.” —Anonymous
His fur was bright gold and his eyes a hazel brown. His right lip curled up slightly farther than his left whenever he would smile. He would smile a lot.
When I was 8, my life was forever changed when a new addition to the family arrived at my front door. With not even a name to call his own, a newborn golden retriever was fleeing the scary outdoor lifestyle in search of love and a home. We were more than willing to take him in, as we had wanted a dog for a long time. “We should call him Airbud like in the movie,” I so confidently declared. I guess it was the inflection of my voice that told my parents then and there that the decision had been made and they had absolutely no say in the matter. “Great! We can call him “Air” for short.”
Air became my daily companion. We would do everything together. At first, I could tell he was a little nervous to be around people, but he quickly warmed up to me. He entertained me with his foolish behavior and made me laugh. He was my child, and despite a number of chewed shoes and a couple of murdered pillows, he became my best friend. We went for long walks outside, played with the many squeaky toys that I had gotten for him, and we curled up at the end of the day when it was time for bed. Whenever I was sad I would tell him my secrets and he would listen as if he knew exactly what I was saying. He would comfort me with kisses on my nose and whispered in his doggie way that everything was going to be okay. When I wanted to be alone, he could tell and would go play somewhere else, where he wouldn’t be a bother.
He had always had an affinity for tennis balls and could play fetch me with me for hours. Sometimes he couldn’t find the ball and would spend several minutes looking for it. He would eventually give up and get another toy for us to play with. Little did he know that I had had the tennis ball in my hands the entire time and had pretended to throw it. It was my little secret. I taught him a new trick every couple of weeks as he learned them with ease. I was convinced that his small puppy brain had been sucked out of his head by a magical warlock and replaced with a human brain at birth. Even today, that is the only explanation I can conjure up as to why his intelligence was far superior to any of the other dogs I knew. This would also explain his amazing memory. Sometimes I would give him commands that I had taught him years prior and he would execute them perfectly as if I had just showed him what to do. A huge grin would appear on his face and I would hug him and give him tons of kisses on his nose. It was these moments where I believed life couldn’t get any more perfect.
It was the morning of February 12th when I heard the news. My dog had a tumor growing in his throat. The doctors said that he had a week to live and to cherish the next few days that we had with him. After three days, he could barely move. The pain just grew heavier and heavier. He couldn’t even lift his head up to drink water. My parents had decided that he had gotten too sick and that it was time for us to relieve him from his suffering. My dad had to carry him out of the house. I’ll never forget the yelping sound he forced out of himself as he strained to stay strong as my dad carried him into the car and then again into the Animal Hospital. The nurse welcomed us with a pained look. She knew exactly why we were there. I think Air knew it too. Air was carried into a separate room; a quiet room. The nurse placed him on a table and told him not to worry. She told him that it was her job to make sure that he went to a better place. I started to cry. I never cry. Air managed to tilt his head ever so slightly and looked at me. I smiled through the tears and told him I loved him. He started crying, screeching as loud as he could with his damaged lungs. Then… silence.
For the next few weeks, I never left my room. I laid in bed for days, crying. I couldn’t manage to get up because part of me was missing, gone, and it wasn’t coming back. I don’t think I spoke to my parents the entire time. I couldn’t think of words to say even if I had tried. My life as I knew it was over. I couldn’t stop thinking about Air. I could see his name everywhere. I would look outside at the wind and it would remind me of him.
It has been said that “It takes a minute to find a special someone, an hour to appreciate them, and a day to love them, but it takes an entire lifetime to forget them.” It’s been almost a year since I lost Air and I still think about him every day. I think about his bark and his touch. I think about his intelligence and I think about his love. I also think about his name, of how perfectly it suited him. He was my “Air” as I needed him to breathe.

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