I would choose it again. Despite the soul-crushing sorrow, I think many people would agree that the joy of having them outweighs the sorrow of losing them. Our “gotcha day,” June 28th, is stamped on our lives- defining a new season and life stage. He was the first living thing that was “ours.” Kuzco made his way into our lives and settled even deeper into our hearts. There was most certainly a cost we didn’t discuss. It’s one we rarely consider when we celebrate new life- it’s really only realized when we say goodbye, and regardless of the time we’ve had, it always comes too soon.

An absence of their presence, an existence to nonexistence. A lonely leash, an unfilled bowl, an empty bed, a missing tail thump, the quiet hardwood floor, a free hand on a walk. The cost was the absence when life was filled with their presence- especially in daily mundane things—the things we didn’t notice until something was missing.

He ate the same thing every day and yet was still so excited about his food, he walked the same route routinely and relished the new adventure. I’m not sure he ever figured out the difference between “outside” and “hungry” as he enthusiastically circled at both. He always greeted with a tail-wag, had to explore before doing his business, behaved better when he knew he’d benefit, he always asked for permission by sitting politely, slept in when suitable for him but grumbled to get us up on weekends at 8 am, expectantly hoped that every package, bag of groceries, new person and delivery was for him. He was enthusiastic about life and eager to please. He was an incredible combination of smart and sensitive, independent yet affectionate, adventurous and sweet.

He taught me a lot. What a gift it is that God can use dogs to both teach us how to live while also revealing our hearts. Another gift of God to man is that everything is easier in hindsight. Kuzco showed me that I’m not as patient as I thought I was, that I get embarrassed by scenes and loudness exhibited in his reactivity to other dogs. He showed me that it’s difficult to steward animals both practically with some of the daily sacrifices made to meet their needs and emotionally when navigating health decisions.

He also demonstrated that dogs love, live, and suffer way better than we do.

From him, I can learn to enjoy a meal, to relish in the routine, to tune my senses to find the adventure, to play before (and maybe while) doing business, to act how I should and ask politely, to not waste the day, to hopefully look forward to new things and new people, to not complain in suffering and look and see what there is to still enjoy.

What purpose, meaning, and significance this 7-year-old, 4-legged furry friend has. A deep print carved on our hearts that inspires us to live better, love deeper, enjoy, and explore more- not because we’re looking for something new, different, better, or more, but because everything we need is here- we just need to tune our senses to sniff it.

So January 20th is stamped on our hearts. A difficult day when we lost a friend. A friend that fulfilled an incredible purpose in a short time, lessons for living that are priceless, preparing us for a new season and life stage.