Our Dog's Purpose

Did I ever tell you about the time a Pet Psychic met our dog?

One day, soon after we were married, my husband was taking our dog Shea on a walk through Hoboken. They stopped to wait in line at a cheese shop, as one does. A woman walked past them, stopped and stared back at Shea. She said, "That dog knows she is lucky. She knows what you did for her. She knows you saved her."

Then she said, "That dog has a girl in her life too. A girl with light hair. She loves The Girl. Her job is to take care of The Girl. That dog knows that's her job."

Then she handed him her card. It said: Pet Psychic.

Interpret that any way you want, or not at all. But I know what it did for me and I never forgot that.

Shea, named for the stadium, was interwoven into our love story. Our first date was taking her on a walk through Central Park. Apparently she approved of me. When I painted our wedding invitation, I included her silhouette.

Two years later the first baby came home. Shea protected me with even more urgency. Being home alone with an infant was not the hardest thing I've ever done. But being home alone with an infant and an over-protective dog was. We had to bring in a trainer to work with Shea, just to assure her that I was OK, and that she could relax.

I will say, I didn't have to vacuum much during the stage when babies learn to drop food onto the floor. Shea took care of that for me.

I was looking for photographs of those crazy days but instead I found drawings I had made. Moments I knew a camera would not have caught, but their silhouettes were forever framed in my mind.

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Then the second baby came home. I've done a lot of things in my life that I'm proud of. But one of my proudest moments was when I managed to bundle up the newborn in the carriage, button up the toddler in her snow gear, put Shea's leash on, and bring everyone out for a walk after a snowstorm.

The walks we took together were long, even if they were just down the block. We'd pause every few feet for Shea to smell something or claim a tree as her own. Then pause again because a baby needed to look at a rock for ten minutes. "Where's Shea's leash?" I asked every day as we headed out. It was never where it was supposed to be.

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When I finally had the energy to start making art again, one of the first pieces I made was this little animation. I remember how fun and cathartic it was to make, and how much this song made me laugh.

This is the sad part of the story. This is when I tell you that last night we had to kiss Shea goodbye for the last time.

There's a whole lot I could share now about the kids; how we told them, how they reacted. The looks on their faces when they understood what was going to happen to their dog. That's indelible on our hearts.

But what really hit us was how much we felt like grown-ups in that moment. We both grew up with animals we loved and had been comforted by our parents during those losses. But tonight, we were "The Mom & Dad" telling their kids that their dog is dying and teaching them how to say goodbye through our own grief.

In the morning my husband texted me a photo he had on his desk at work. It was from a birthday party we were at, in Central Park, ten years ago. We were still dating. We looked younger. We weren't exhausted. And Shea was next to us in the grass. Golden, happy, woven into our lives already, doing her job: Safe with The Boy, and taking care of The Girl.

You could tell there was no where else she'd rather be. And we all looked like we knew, we were so very, very lucky.

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Love, Naava