I don’t quite know why it’s taken me so long to write this post, but it seems like tonight I just need some closure. Our family dog, Milo, went missing a month ago today, and I’ve finally accepted that he’s not coming home. I don’t want this to turn into a weird pet elegy or anything, but I did want to take a moment to reflect on what happened, how he touched my life, and how much I’m going to miss him.
In late 2004, I was living the bachelor life. I thought it would be cool to get a dog, and it seemed that a Jack Russell Terrier would make a perfect canine companion. For those of you who aren’t familiar, they’re feisty, intelligent little dogs with a lot of personality and above all, lots of energy. So I scouted PetFinder for several weeks, trying to find one that needed a good home. After a couple of unsuccessful inquiries, I found a rescue in Murfreesboro (about 2½ hours from Knoxville) that had a couple of dogs I wanted to meet. One of them turned out to be Milo.
He was truly in pathetic shape when I found him. The rescue was a dump with way too many dogs cooped up in filthy stacked cages in a garage. Emaciated, fighting a skin infection and who knows what else, he wasn’t much to look at. The rescue told me that he’d been brought in by a couple from New York who had decided they didn’t have room in their family for a new baby and a dog. My heart went out to him, and I knew I could give him a forever home.
From the very beginning, Milo was a great dog. He was whip-smart and already housebroken, and he had no problem hanging out in my apartment while I was at work. He added pounds over the next few weeks and with several trips to the vet, he was on the road to recovery from his skin infection. I enjoyed walking with him, but I could tell he was going to require a significant investment of time and energy. More than a few mornings I was late to work because he’d found an aromatic pile of poop to in which to roll around.
Ginny and I met a few weeks later. She was definitely not a dog person, but they eventually learned to tolerate each other. Milo also managed to reach an armistice of sorts with our two cats. We got him fixed (hey, better him than me), which helped to alleviate some of his aggressive and roaming behaviors. When Logan came along, Milo endured countless hours of torture at the hands of a curious toddler, but they were always respectful of each other’s toys. We moved several times over the next few years before finally landing in a house with a nice fenced yard in which they could play. Milo always lived in the house, and I was pleased to be able to walk him without a leash (except as required by law). I won’t sugarcoat it and say he was always a sweetheart; he was always more aggressive around strangers, but it seems like once he got to know someone, he was very friendly. When family came to visit, Milo was perfectly content to turn into my father-in-law’s little lap dog.
And like any family, we settled into our routine. We’d let him out in the front yard to do his business at sunrise, once more before we left for work, again when we returned home, and a few times in the evening before bed. When I got a midnight snack, so did he. Bath twice a week. Vacuum the furniture every few days to keep the pet hair to a minimum.
As I was packing up to leave work on that Friday afternoon, I called Ginny to see if she’d like me to grab some dinner on the way home. She told me that she’d let Milo out when she got home and that he wouldn’t come back. I assumed he was just milling around the cul de sac, as he knew where his bread was buttered and was never one to wander far. However, by the time I got home, he’d completely vanished. Like into the ether. I burned the remaining daylight scouring the neighborhood to no avail. The following morning, I tacked up posters all over the neighborhood. I posted on Facebook and Twitter. For the next two weeks, I visited the local shelter every day in hopes he’d turn up. Milo was always such a loyal friend, I felt like I owed him that. Still no luck.
Some of my favorite memories of Milo are how he would push his nose into my palm to get me to pet his head, how he could snatch at treat out of midair, and how he could spend hours relentlessly working any new toy into a million tiny bits of rubber shrapnel. Many nights I’d turn turn off my computer and spin in my desk chair to find Milo quietly perched at my feet staring off into space, probably for hours. In fact, my last memory of him is while I was recently painting my son’s new room. We didn’t let Milo in the kid’s rooms, but I’d had the door open while I was working, and I turned around to see him laying on his belly with just his nose and paws across the threshold. God knows how long he’d been quietly laying there with just his eyes following me. He just wanted to be near me, and that made my heart smile.
Logan still doesn’t understand he’s gone, and I’m still sad thinking about all the adventures that he and his little brother won’t get to share with their dog. My heart hurts, because I don’t know where my friend may have spent his final hours. The little optimist inside me says he found a good home somewhere nearby and is currently living in luxury under the assumed name of “Mr. Jingles.” But the realist knows better.
Look, I know our pets aren’t forever, but I wasn’t ready to let him go yet. I’ll always treasure my time with him and the richness he brought to our family. In the words of dog lover John Grogan (of Marley fame), “maybe he held the secret for a good life. Never slow down, never look back, live each day with adolescent verve and spunk and curiosity and playfulness.” That was our Milo.