Happy Birthday, Romeo the Wunderpup

So, I launched this blog, and then I went silent. 

Sometimes things happen and you need to give yourself time to process them without worrying about the expectations of others. I've wanted to write so many times over the past few months, but I also needed to mourn a loss, and I couldn't do both. Not honestly.

Today would have been Romeo's 13th birthday. In his honor, I'd like to take a few minutes to celebrate the life of this beloved Wonderpup.

I mean . . . what a face!

I mean . . . what a face!

My mom with Romeo, June 2004

My mom with Romeo, June 2004

If you know me, you know I'm a planner. When I graduated from high school, I knew that I wanted to attend Milligan College in beautiful east Tennessee. I knew that I wanted to major in English and earn my teaching certificate. I also knew that I wanted to move back to my hometown, Savannah, Georgia, and teach 9th grade English at my old high school (go Knights!). Finally, I knew that when I got that first teaching job, I wanted to live downtown and have a golden retriever. I knew all of that when I was 18. And, you know what? That's exactly what I did. There was one detail, however, I ended up compromising on, and that was Romeo.

I found Romeo on Petfinder.com after searching for golden retrievers and he, along with his brothers and sisters, were being cared for by the Humane Society in Claxton, Georgia. They knew that his mom was a border collie, but didn't know for sure what breed his dad would have been. They were guessing his dad was a golden, and I thought he was so cute, so I adopted him. For the record, my mother thought he was ugly. I only mention this because she was horribly wrong and it's just fun to pick on her for it.

During Spring Break of my first year teaching, I finally moved into my very first apartment. It was a beautiful Victorian home in downtown Savannah that had been renovated into four apartments. I had my dream job, my dream apartment, and now it was time for my dream dog. I arranged to finish out the school year before picking up Romeo so that I could give him my full attention. The last day of post-planning, my mom and I hopped in the car and made the hour-long drive to Claxton to pick up my 12-week-old puppy. He was out in the yard when we arrived, and I'll never forget this fluffy ball of golden fur hopping in the grass making his way over to the fence to greet me. This was the moment, by the way, Mom admitted she was wrong and that he was adorable.

On the ride home, I decided on a name for him. His original name was Shiloh, but that did not fit him at all. Now, it wasn't until after I named him that it occurred to me that I was an ENGLISH teacher with a dog named Romeo. Good grief. For the record, my puppy (not that this is any better, but it's true) was named after Lil Romeo, the rapper (you know, Master P's son??). Forgive me.

This was the day I brought Romeo home to my apartment in downtown Savannah. We lived on the same block as the Gingerbread House and took daily walks to Forsyth Park.

This was the day I brought Romeo home to my apartment in downtown Savannah. We lived on the same block as the Gingerbread House and took daily walks to Forsyth Park.

Romeo, 6 months old - on the back porch of my apartment

Romeo, 6 months old - on the back porch of my apartment

Romeo, 6 months old

Romeo, 6 months old

If you ever met Romeo, you knew he wasn't the most perfect dog, but he really tried. He was my protector, my friend, a cuddler, my confidant, a shoulder, a goofball, and a total sweetheart. Oh, what I wouldn't give to hug that fur ball right now!

Hiking at Raven Cliff Falls, 2013

Hiking at Raven Cliff Falls, 2013

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Oh, THE frog! I bought Romeo a few toys over the years, but there remained one constant: a squeaky frog! I'm pretty sure we owned close to 10 throughout the years. I wash one until it split open in one spot or another and then I'd give him a new one. The store that sold them discontinued the toy a few years ago, so I bought the last three the store had and rationed them out over the last few years.

Oh, THE frog! I bought Romeo a few toys over the years, but there remained one constant: a squeaky frog! I'm pretty sure we owned close to 10 throughout the years. I wash one until it split open in one spot or another and then I'd give him a new one. The store that sold them discontinued the toy a few years ago, so I bought the last three the store had and rationed them out over the last few years.

Romeo was with me almost every day for 12 1/2 years. He was a friend. The best kind. Romeo and I grew up together in a lot of ways. He knew me when I was 22, you guys. TWENTY TWO. That feels like so long ago in so many ways. He watched me (attempt, at least) to become an adult building her career. Romeo kept me company through about a gazillion grading sessions over the years. He watched me cry over dumb boys. He followed me through 10 moves all around Savannah and eventually to north Georgia. He lived with roommates. He lived with other dogs. He lived with me when it was just the two of us. He tolerated Adam in the beginning and eventually stopped barking at us when we'd hug. He watched me become a wife and then a mother.  He was nothing but good to little baby Imogen when we brought her home to our family. And he was patient and loving through it all. 

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He stuck by my side on good days and on bad ones. You may not know this, but five years ago I was suffering from depression, and he was the only one who knew it. For over a year, he was the only one who saw me cry almost every day. He was the only one who knew I was trying to sleep the pain away. And he never left my side. 

Looking fly with his summer haircut 

Looking fly with his summer haircut 

The summer before Imogen was born we found a tumor on Romeo. It was growing slowly, so it wasn't until the following summer that we had it removed. I was incredibly grateful that we were able to do the surgery and keep him with us. At the time, I wondered how much longer we might have with him. While I hoped for years, you just never know with things like that.

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Last fall, I found another tumor. Unfortunately, this tumor was on a spot on his leg that would have made it incredibly difficult to successfully remove. Odds were good that we would have to amputate his leg. At his age, and knowing he was already having hip issues, amputation was not an ideal solution. 

In November, I thought we were looking at another 6-12 months with him. On December 15th, it became clear that this tumor was much more aggressive than the first one. It was growing at a very fast rate and causing problems that I won't go into, but I took him to the vet. It was then that we realized we only had a matter of days left with him. On December 21st, we said goodbye to this precious pup.

I know now more than ever that I will never have a dog like Romeo again. He was such a gift from the Lord. My heavenly Father knew all of the things I would experience - the good and the bad - throughout the last 13 years, and He knew that Romeo would be such a gift.

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I miss hugging him. I miss playing with him and taking him on walks. I miss the drive-by lickings (if you ever met him, you know what I'm talking about!). I miss rubbing his belly. I miss watching him play with Imogen. I miss throwing the frog (his favorite toy) for him. I miss him greeting us when we'd come home. I miss when he'd lay on top of my feet. I miss him.

Looking after baby Imogen

Looking after baby Imogen

Romeo always let Imogen cuddle with him.

Romeo always let Imogen cuddle with him.

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Imogen's 2nd birthday

Imogen's 2nd birthday

Blue Ridge Mountains, 2016

Blue Ridge Mountains, 2016

One last hug

One last hug

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Romeo, I'm celebrating your birthday today, buddy. You were so loved and you are so missed. Thank you for always loving me. Thank you for always looking after me.

Saying goodbye

Saying goodbye

To Flush, My Dog by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Yet, my pretty sportive friend,
Little is't to such an end
That I praise thy rareness!
Other dogs may be thy peers
Haply in these drooping ears,
And this glossy fairness.

But of thee it shall be said,
This dog watched beside a bed
Day and night unweary— 
Watched within a curtained room,
Where no sunbeam brake the gloom
Round the sick and dreary.

Roses, gathered for a vase,
In that chamber died apace,
Beam and breeze resigning.
This dog only, waited on,
Knowing that when light is gone
Love remains for shining.

Other dogs in thymy dew
Tracked the hares, and followed through
Sunny moor or meadow.
This dog only, crept and crept
Next a languid cheek that slept,
Sharing in the shadow.

Other dogs of loyal cheer
Bounded at the whistle clear,
Up the woodside hieing.
This dog only, watched in reach
Of a faintly uttered speech,
Or a louder sighing.

And if one or two quick tears
Dropped upon his glossy ears,
Or a sigh came double— 
Up he sprang in eager haste,
Fawning, fondling, breathing fast,
In a tender trouble.

And this dog was satisfied
If a pale thin hand would glide
Down his dewlaps sloping— 
Which he pushed his nose within,
After—platforming his chin
On the palm left open.

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