Long before my children made me a Mother, I was a Dog Mom.
It was a 13 year love story. His name was Hershey Bear.
It’s true what they say about never getting over your first love. Mine was a dog, and yes, he made me a Mom.
I had more loves-of-my-life make their way into the picture over those 13 years, including my husband and my children. But nothing and no one changed my love for Hershey.
13 years is a long time. But it wasn’t anywhere near long enough.
I miss him something fierce.
We were partners in all of what life threw at us. The joys, the heartbreaks, the new loves & additions, the losses, the sicknesses, the happiest moments—all of it. We shared knowing looks & side-eye glances. We walked together when one of us wanted to walk; we ran when one of us wanted to run. And when he became weak & needed to be carried, my love for him helped me become superhuman & lift my 100lb “little” boy up. He would’ve done the same.
I was a Dog Mom. He was my Boy. And I was his Mom.
The really unique thing about a dog (and maybe any super special pet), is that they can be the love of your life, your baby, and your best friend all rolled into one.
That was Hershey.
I was Dog's Best Friend. He was Girl's Best Friend. I was Dog Mom. He was my little (big) boy.
I was his. And he was mine.
If you've been a Dog Mom then you know how real that love is.
I'm a "real" Mom now. I have a son and a daughter. Yes, it's different than being a Fur Mama.
Of course it is. Of course being a Mom to my children is different than being a Dog Mom. But, in so many ways, it's the same.
Hershey was my child. He was Man of Honor at my wedding. He walked down the aisle. I tucked him in every single night for 13 years unless I was out of town. I loved him goodbye every time I left the house. If I forgot I'd literally reverse back down the street to run in & tell him bye.
My family and friends have always laughed about how crazy much I loved him. My husband often joked he didn't know who I loved more. (He might've been only halfway joking. 🤨)
Hershey was with me every single step of the way for 13 years. My love for him was so real and consuming.
As silly as it sounds, one of my worries about having children was that I would have less time with him. Less time to spend with him, and less time to spend on him.
He was right there with me when I went from being a Dog Mom to a Mom Mom.
(Of course our fur babies were part of our Baby Announcements. Because FAMILY.)
He was gentle & patient with my first-born. My new little boy. He was easy & kind with my tiny baby despite being a behemoth of a dog. He never acted threatened, and if he acted anything less than perfect, I'd say "Hersheyyy" in that tone Moms have...& he'd listen. (Now that I have a 2.5 & nearly 5 year old, I can confidently say I think dogs are better listeners.)
Two years later came my daughter. Shortly after she was born, we found lymphoma in Hershey. We fought for him—with him—and he fought, too. Hard. I'd take him to Firehouse Subs after chemo treatments. I made him in a room in the garage when he was too weak to go up & down the stairs. I even put our extra baby monitor down there so I could monitor him at night. The monitor would scan both of my kids' rooms & then Hershey's room.
See? Dog Mom.
At night after we put our kids down, I'd lie down there with him. It would feel so good just to pet & hold him in the quiet without the chaos of family life with 2 toddlers. To remind him that I was still there & it was still us. While my little babies were safely tucked in their beds, my big baby was safely tucked in my arms. His Mama’s arms. ❤️🐾
As his health got worse, I'd retreat down there & stay longer. Sometimes I'd talk to him about life & my new babies & Motherhood. Other times I'd just snuggle him in silence. I told myself I was doing it for him, but the truth is it was probably just as much for me. He'd been the constant in my life well before I ever started a family of my own, and I think being with him was comforting & reassuring for me, too.
It's not fair that our dogs don't get to stay here as long as us. They are nothing but love and they deserve longer.
And it's not fair that we don't get to be Dog Moms longer. It's a beautiful bond that could last a lifetime if given the chance.
I say all the time how I'd freeze my children forever right now if I could. They love me so much at this point in their little lives. I'm their whole world. Time goes too fast. I do think the days are long but the years are short. I wish I could stop time.
I also felt that way with Hershey, but for different reasons.
It hurt me to see him changing & aging right in front of me. I wanted time to stop. I wanted to have longer with him.
It was difficult watching him get older, wondering if he was okay, if he ached, if I was doing everything right, and if he felt loved enough. He was down a spleen & battling lymphoma like a soldier. He had terrible arthritis because of those long legs of his. And he had severe hip dysplasia.
It was hard to see him hurt.
As he got older, he struggled. Physically he became weaker, but his spirit only grew stronger.
Just like I kind of love the sticky little child handprints my kids leave all over the house, I loved Hershey's paw prints. When I'd come home & see his wet or dirty paw prints on the floor, I'd be so touched. Because I knew the effort it took to get those prints there. The amount of will & strength it took my 100lb boy to get up & walk outside for a brief minute of fresh air before retreating back to his bed.
Years back I'd started taking him to therapeutic swimming to give his joints some relief. For over a decade, I'd saved my money to pay his vet bills, for all his bloodwork & medicine, to get him the right kind of food for his joints, and for the clencher—chemo. When I sold my Wrangler before having kids so I could get something safer, I was looking for two things—a comfortable, safe car for kids and a cargo area big enough for Hershey. (Oh, and heated seats, obvi.)
You know who does stuff like that? A Dog Mom.
I was fortunate enough to be able to do all that for him. I know that's not always possible. I'm extremely grateful to have had such a loving husband who never questioned any decision I made regarding my first little boy. He never made me feel like Hershey was "just a dog."
Because our dogs aren't "just dogs." And we aren't "just owners."
My dog is the one who made me a Mama all those years ago. He will always be the one who made me a Mama. A Fur Mama.
Nothing—no amount of time or space or human kids—can change that.
Once a Mom, always a Mom. Even a Dog Mom.
Make no mistake about that.
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