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Dogs are God’s best example of unconditional love this side of Heaven, in my opinion. If you’re not a dog person, this might not be your favorite Southern Fried Encouragement blog. Come back another time, though. I’m sure I’ll have something else for you.

I lost the best dog in the world this week. I can’t stand to walk past the empty place where her bed used to be, or see her empty bowl. I keep thinking I’m going to hear the click, click, click of her walking across hardwood floors. I feel immobilized by grief right now, and as always, the thing that helps me most in my pain is to write. Please indulge me while I tell the story of our sweet Roxy.

It was a swelteringly hot day in the summer of 2005. My 12 year old son, Daniel, went out back to play with our golden retriever, Kodiak. He came running back into the house yelling, “MOM!! Come quick!! Kodiak had puppies!!!”

I knew just when it had happened. A couple of months earlier, I was doing the dishes and looked in the backyard to see a strange black lab. He and Kodiak were smoking a cigarette . . .

She’d only had three puppies, which explained why I hadn’t noticed her gaining weight. Sadly, one of them was born dead.

Immediately a furious thunderstorm came up. As soon as it was over, Daniel went back out to check on the puppies. Kodiak had dug a hole to have the puppies in, and rain had run in that hole. One of the puppies had drowned and poor Daniel tried in vain to give it CPR. His heart was broken that he couldn’t save that puppy.

No mom with a heart could tell him he couldn’t keep the one puppy who lived.

And that’s how we got our precious Roxy. Half golden retriever/half sneaky neighbor black lab.

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Roxy was the quietest dog ever. I can count on one hand the number of times I heard her bark. Never once heard her growl. She buried whatever bones we got her for Christmas, no matter how big they were. She loved to chase birds and squirrels. If I’d known she was sick, I would’ve let her keep the one she got two weeks before she died.

She was always an outside dog. Any time I’d make her come in when it was cold, she acted like she hated it. She’d sit by the back door and want back out. When we moved back to NC from Virginia, we moved into a townhouse (not for long — city life ain’t for me). There was no room for Roxy to be outside, so she went to live with my cousin Brad and his family for a few years. She loved running free at their house, and they loved her like we did.

Roxy came back to live with me after I remarried and lived where there were acres and acres for her to run free. We already had two inside dogs, so I told my husband not to worry about a third one in the house — Roxy didn’t like being inside.

The first night she was here, there was Roxy — staring in the back door like, “Why do those dogs get to be in there and you’re making me stay outside?”  We stood there in silence until Todd finally said, “Well we can’t just leave her out there!” And with that, Roxy became an inside dog. It was such a joy to have her inside that I wish she had been all along.

Everyone who has ever met Roxy said she’s the sweetest, most gentle, well behaved dog they’ve ever met. When our granddaughter Kinley was born, Roxy let her crawl all over her. It makes me so sad that Kinley probably won’t remember her.

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We all noticed Roxy was losing weight. A few weeks ago, she went to get up from her bed and she fell. It scared us, but I attributed all these things to age.– after all, she was 12, and that’s old for large breed dogs. We got home from vacation this weekend and I had to help her up the stairs. I thought maybe she was getting arthritis and made her an appointment with the vet on Monday.

The vet gave me the news every pet owner fears. Our sweet Roxy had cancer. There was nothing they could do for her. We needed to make plans to let her go.

I sobbed my way through the drive thru at McDonald’s and got her a plain cheeseburger. Todd grilled her a New York Strip for supper. On Tuesday, she walked outside, but couldn’t walk back in. After that we carried her in and out. That night again she had New York Strip.

By Wednesday, she couldn’t walk at all. I stayed home with her all day, loving on her all I could, yet knowing what we had to do. I carried her outside to let her enjoy the unseasonably warm fall day for as long as I could.

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When it was time, we carried her in her bed so she wouldn’t have to die on a cold doctor’s table. Todd and I held her close and through sobs, I told her what a good girl she was, and how much we all loved her — right up until she took her last breath. The vet cried with us and said we should all hope to die that way — peacefully going to sleep with the people who love us most by our side.

We buried her in her bed, under the oak trees at the edge of the yard where she used to race out the door to chase the squirrels.

The grief comes in waves. It happened so fast that I’m still reeling. I struggle with guilt — why didn’t I know she was sick? Could I have saved her if I had? I know one day I’ll stop crying. But that day isn’t today. I will never forget our sweet Roxy girl, and even if you never met her, I hope you won’t either. If you have fur babies, hold them a little closer tonight. You don’t get to keep them nearly long enough, you know.

Lord, please let there really be a Rainbow Bridge. Let Roxy be running as fast as the wind through green pastures with her beautiful jet black fur blowing. Let her catch a squirrel and let her keep it this time. And please let her be waiting for me when I get there. 

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