The black 2 door Honda Civic pulled up to the long gravel driveway. The driver stopped at the gate. The kind of house you expect to see on a farm in Texas stood far off in the distance. Oil drills went up and down, up and down. To the right of the house stood a large barn with an old tractor standing guard in front.
Hay bales dotted the land as far as the eye could see. The smell of manure hit the driver in the face even as he stayed in the car. The owners of that manure mozied around the land, most of them laying in groups under trees. The rainstorm the day before made sure the grass turned into mud.
The driver, a city boy, felt out of place.
As the gate slowly finished opening, he noticed a pair of big brown eyes running towards the car. Her name was Roxie. A five-year-old English cream golden retriever.
On a normal day, her fur would be the color of fresh snow. This day it looked like the piles of snow that sit for months waiting to melt away. Mud all over her, she made it to the front of the car. A stranger to greet! The driver opened his door to see better, careful not to hit Roxie.
As he looked around with his door open, she ran from behind the car and jumped into the driver’s lap. Mud everywhere. A giant smile on her face. Sniffing the driver’s face as he tried to make it up the driveway to the house. Relentless in her quest to smell every inch of this new person.
When she finished she jumped off the driver. She landed in the passenger seat, making sure it got the full mud treatment too. She panted in excitement. Eyes looked directly at the driver. Her tongue hung out of her mouth.
She didn’t know it yet, but the next 10 years of her life would change that day.
The driver didn’t know it yet, but the rest of his life would change because of that day.
That driver was me.
And now I know my world will change again.
For ten years Roxie and I went through law school, breakups, moves, and multiple high-stress jobs. She was there for me and I was there for her.
Work needed to be close enough to home so I could go and see Roxie at lunch. Even when I was in trial, I still rushed home to see her. Every time that door opened I was greeted by those big brown eyes, a smile on her face, and what I called her happy dance.
Roxie found a way to convince me that my lifestyle needed to change. At 23 years old, I needed a wake-up call. Roxie did that, literally and figuratively. She would wake me up at 6 am in the morning. Not to go outside but just out of excitement for those five minutes of pets on the head. More importantly, my priorities about life changed. I stopped partying and started focusing on school, my career, and my dreams.
Why aren’t you coming to the bar tonight, they would ask.
I always responded with one word. Roxie.
This ad from Budweiser back in 2014 sums this feeling up perfectly:
The person I am today, the success I have had in my career, and the confidence to establish this philosophy of Performative Speaking all came from Roxie.
Truthfully, this is my origin story. One day I will write of all the tales we took part in during our time together. One day I will write the full origin story with the good, the bad, and the ugly. Today is not that day. Today I struggle with a different part of any great journey.
Why the hell does it end?
Why the hell don’t dogs live forever?
Roxie is around 15 years old now and she is still with me as I write this but I’m no fool. She trips on flat ground now. She struggles to get up from her dog bed. She limps to come to see me when I walk in the door. She tries to give her happy dance, but she can’t. Her pain pills have gone from zero to one to two.
Whereas she used to walk and lay next to me, I now return the favor. I find myself spending far too much time laying in an over-sized dog bed these days, but I will not stop. I know that my time with her is both precious and short.
I scheduled a last-minute trip to go and see my parents so they have a chance to say goodbye. They are in a new home now but I will always remember sitting down at the living room table in their old house in 2011 and pitching them my idea to get a dog. I can replay the conversation like it was yesterday.
“You know you have to pick up her poop?”
I knew that. I also knew that the end would be the toughest part. I wish I was wrong on that, but given the number of tears that have fallen down my face and onto Roxie’s head this past week, I know I’m not.
I refused to watch Marley and Me for that exact reason. I couldn’t deal with the end. Now I’m dealing with it for real.
How do you say goodbye to your best friend?
I want to hit the walls. I want to scream how it is not fair. I want to stop the inevitable.
But, I cannot.
I understand reality. I understand that my world is about to change. Friends and family members who know my relationship with Roxie ask me “What will you do?”
I honestly do not know. I will hurt but I will be okay. Roxie has made sure of that.
Roxie has been there through the struggles and failures. Failures that led to new possibilities and future successes. Successes that continue to push me forward towards dreams and goals I want to achieve.
I cry because she will not get to see those dreams and goals achieved. I will miss coming home to celebrate with her. I will miss all of her white hair on my suit after a successful day in court.
I imagine the mess I’ll be when she leaves me. I imagine what it will be like without her. I imagine the empty apartment and not needing to run the Roomba twice a day. I imagine myself saying “ROXIE GIRL!” and nobody running to see me. I don’t like what my mind shows me but I know it is coming.
My world is about to change.
My mom asked me yesterday “Will you stay with her?”