Those of you who grew up around dogs know this. In fact, you may have taken it for granted. It just never really occurred to me that dogs smile until I moved in with my wife Amanda and her dog Camille.
Camille died two years ago today.
We came home from a football game and thought she was having a seizure. We gave her medication, including a rectal injection, and it didn’t stop. We took her to Dove Lewis (where we were met with professionalism and compassion) and they discovered it wasn’t a seizure, but rather some neurological thing with a name I can’t and don’t want to remember, and it wasn’t likely to stop. We decided to end Camille’s suffering. No one can prepare you for that decision.
Back to the smile…
Years earlier, I had just moved in. I had a day off, and Amanda was working. “Maybe you can take her for a thing to the place…” she suggested as she left. Sounded like a good idea to me, so after brunch, I grabbed Camille’s leash and she barked her agreement that she thought it was a good idea too. Before I clipped it on her, she took a brief sniff search and found a ball, so I grabbed the Chuckit!, a curved plastic device that let you really launch a tennis ball. Her tail looked like it was going to wag off her body.
I had been to this park and used this chuckit with Camille before, but always with Amanda. This was the first time it was just us. She was so excited that she pulled on the lead all the way there, and immediately dropped her ball at my feet when we reached the edge of the old softball diamond, way out beyond center field. I undid her leash, picked up the ball with the chuck-it, and let it fly. She took off in a flash, almost getting to the spot it landed before it got there. She jumped and caught it on the first bounce, and sprinted back to me. She dropped it at my feet and yelped twice. This was her way of saying “More!” although she always said it twice: once slightly to the left – “More!” and again slightly to the right – “More!” Of course, I obliged. Usually, when we go with Amanda, we would do 4, 5, or maybe 6 chuck-its. I lost count that day, because she kept demanding “More! More!” I made a game out of it for myself: could I make it bounce on second base? Could I hit home plate? Could I hit the small Parks & Rec sign attached to the backstop? We kept going, and going, and going, 20, 30, maybe 40 times. She kept sprinting and asking me for more. Finally, she walked back instead of ran. She didn’t drop the ball at my feet. She was done for the day. And her panting showed it.
“You ready?” I asked her. I didn’t even put the leash on her, as she was at my side the whole walk home, stopping only to do her business in one of her favorite patches of the neighbor’s grass. When we got inside, she drank like 5 gallons of water, and collapsed into her bed. Only a couple minutes later she was snoring loudly, contentedly. She stayed knocked out like that for a couple hours…until Amanda came home from work. Amanda came in and Camille popped her head up, but didn’t get up to greet her like normal. “She’s pooped”, I said. Amanda kneeled down and pet her, cooed, and asked her, “Did you guys go to the place?”
Camille got up, stretched, and looked over at me, remembering our fun like it was a secret just for us, and it was at that moment when I absolutely fell in love with that dog, because she smiled the biggest, goofiest, and most sincere grin at me, for me. I’ll never forget it.