for my girl

Dogs are heroes. My border collie, Charlie, was my hero. She saved me. My mom got her for my birthday one year—I think I was turning 12 years old. It was in the middle of my parents’ divorce, and I remember coming home from celebrating my birthday with my dad and feeling sadness in my whole body. The weight hit me that I was now celebrating my birthday with my dad, and then I was celebrating my birthday with my mom. It would never be just one celebration, all of us together, again.

That day, I plopped on the couch and started telling my mom what we did at my dad’s. Her face was so lit up as she listened, and I remember thinking that there was no way she was this excited about me recounting the Dove ice cream sandwiches we ate and the video games we played with dad.

Then she asked if I noticed anything. I looked around our family room—a place I’d grown so used to that I suppose I didn’t even notice its details any longer—and against the far wall I finally saw a small crate with a teeny black and white ball of fluff.

My life changed instantaneously.

In the middle of what felt like the end of my world—our family was being ripped in half in actual slow motion—I had this wild, sweet animal to call my own. I called her Charlie. Today, Charlie passed away. She was 13, a year older than my age when I got her, and she lived the happiest and the quirkiest life.

Those early days with her are difficult to remember, but the day she became mine, the feelings I had that went from despondent to ignited are clear as glass.

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