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Not being able to explain my absence to my dog
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Not being able to explain my absence to my dog

Dogs are supposedly our best friends. And, from my experience, I can attest to the truth of that statement. I’m in love with all 16-ish pounds of my small, white, fluffy angel — Duncan, a bichon frise (not to be confused with a poodle, as he so often is).

He’s 12 years old, and we literally grew up together. I remember being a little first grader, begging my mom practically every day for a puppy. Then came Christmas morning, when he waddled into my eager arms for the first time, immediately making every cabbage patch kid, easy-bake oven or barbie doll I had received that day irrelevant. I enthusiastically declared that he was and would always be the best present that I had ever received.

All these years later, I can certainly still attest to the truth of that statement. I watched him learn to only do his business outdoors as he watched me learn about fractions and multiplication tables. I helped to entertain him with attempted games of fetch (which he’s never been good at), and he helped to entertain me during those middle school summers that always seemed to drag on for way too long. I comforted him during thunderstorms (which he hates), and he comforted me when I was sad.

We’ve been together through thick and thin, so I’m sure you can imagine his surprise when, after 12 years of never being apart for that long, I suddenly took practically everything from my room and left him. Then finally came back, then left again. Then came back, then left again. At this point, I don’t think he’ll ever trust me again.

I remember that when I was packing everything up to leave for school, every time I found myself overjoyed with excitement, I’d look over and see him looking at me with a slight head tilt, and I’d feel my heart ache for the separation that I knew I wouldn’t be able to properly explain. And did I mention that move-in day was literally on his birthday?

I remember that he used to try to climb into my suitcases and stay there, because dogs are very smart after all, and I’m sure he knew some sort of big change was coming when my room was emptied out all of a sudden. Maybe he thought that if I couldn’t access my suitcases, I couldn’t possibly leave. I think he just forgot to factor in his easily removable size.

I miss all of my other family members just as much when I’m away, but part of the reason it hurts so much to be away from Duncan is because I can’t explain everything to him. My mom texts me everyday, so she’s certainly in the loop. I talk to my grandparents almost everyday, so they’re updated on my life as well. That just leaves Duncan, aware of my absence, but not quite sure why. It’s like when you step on a paw, and you hear that little bark, and you want to apologize, but you can’t do it properly. It’s like that, but multiply it by ten.

Yes, my mom does put him on the camera during our FaceTime calls. And yes, by the sound of my voice, I’m sure he realizes that I’m alive and somewhere out in the world. But if anything, that makes it even sadder because I’m somewhere out there, but not with him. Even so, every time I come home it’s as if no time has passed at all, and he welcomes me with a wagging tail and a big smile.

I wish I could see him more frequently than just Thanksgiving, Christmas and summer break. I wish I could explain to him that I’m never leaving him for good, and that I’ll always come back. But each time I go, it probably seems like I’m gone for even longer the next time around. My 16-ish pound, small, white, fluffy angel is perfect in my eyes. But if only he could talk.

 

Contact Kassidy Kelley at kckelley ‘at’ stanford.edu.