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Challenge: We love our pets

Saying goodbye to our dog while holding his place at the door

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Thirteen years ago we brought home a tiny yellow lab puppy. He captured my heart as fast as he captured my time. Walk after walk, worry after worry, and snuggle after snuggle, he was mine. After a year of puppy love, my husband and I decided to try for a baby. We lost that baby, and after being told that there was no heartbeat, I was able to come home to my lab who not only already seemed to know, but knew how to comfort me. I cried myself to sleep that night…and he never left my side.

Two years later we welcomed our first baby boy home and Cooper was just as eager to greet him as we were to introduce him. It was instant kinship. Somehow, these two had already known one another for a lifetime. Their connection was swift and natural and despite their parent’s concern, they seemed to figure it out on their own.

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They became inseparable. They spent years playing in the driveway, and running in the yard. My favorite moments though, were the ones I captured by the door. The moments that they both ran to watch the garbage men, the moments that they both stopped to watch the kids get off and on the school bus, and the moments that they stopped for nothing other than a moment together. Those were my favorite.

The years picked up at warp speed and before we knew it, we were bringing home our second son. Cooper wasn’t fazed, he was delighted. I’m not sure why, but this dog was always happy to welcome another person into our home. He wasn’t just happy to welcome visitors he was over the moon to welcome the permanent loves who would reside in our home on a daily basis.

Cooper was happy to welcome the boys who would bury him in the snow, and dress him up as a firefighter. He was happy to have boys who longed to play with him all day, and sleep with him all night. He was his happiest though, when they would lie with him by the front door. He even stayed there to watch the boys who had played with him for years at home bid farewell from the school bus.

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The front door was Cooper’s spot. It was where he excitedly watched the world as a puppy, and it was where he continued to watch the world as a dog. It was where he greeted everyone who came into our home, and it was where he insisted on bidding farewell as they left. All of our friends and family knew to expect him there, and all of our neighbors looked for him as they ran, walked, or strolled past our house. He was the dog by the door. He took his role seriously, and he played it well.

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I’ve heard that all of us have a purpose in this life. I have heard that dogs know their purpose before we do. If I had to guess, Cooper’s purpose was to guard our front door. His purpose was to jump for joy when he saw the people he loved the most, and to stand and guard us when he wasn’t sure. His purpose was to keep two boys company once a week on garbage day, and to smile on Saturday’s as they rode by with daddy on the lawnmower. His purpose was to see them off on the big yellow school bus and await their return every afternoon. His purpose was to greet us with the eyes we loved during snow, and the curiosity we loved during a rain storm. His purpose was to nap in the warmth of the sunshine.

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He took it all in. He watched everyone walk and run, old and young, he memorized their faces, and he most definitely loved it all. He was happy running with the boys, but he was happiest watching them run. We were happiest with him under our feet, next to our hearts, and taking up space in our world. He was his happiest at the front door watching us, and waiting for us, and that is where we will forever remember him. The front door feels empty since we said goodbye to him. I continue to look for him there, but somehow I know he will always hold space at the front door for us, and we will always hold a space in our hearts for him.

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