Last week, I had a beautiful, pain-in-the-butt, loving, goofy, and snuggly monster. He was originally from Tennessee. I bought him online on a whim, which is not the most knowledgeable way to buy a dog and completely unlike my usual decision-making process. Right after the money was deducted from my checking account, I had second thoughts. I called the website and asked if I could talk to the breeder to get more information on my purchase. After a short hold, I was connected. I found out the breeder had never sold her dogs online before. While planning one litter of puppies, a second female in her crew got unexpectedly pregnant. While the owner was prepared to sell one litter of puppies, she was not prepared to sell two. And to her surprise, both litters were larger than normal. She had 22 puppies on her hands to find homes for. She did something she never thought she would do: She listed her puppies online.
After talking with her and reading reviews from her happy customers, I decided to stick with my unlike-JoAnna-on-the-whim purchase. In the matter of a week, my new three-month-old Great Dane puppy would be flying from Tennessee to Connecticut. I remember the day I picked him up at the airport. My friend came with me to drive so I could sit and talk with the pup on the hour ride back. I remember seeing his then-35-pound body walk around so haphazardly. He looked like a tiny horse. I named him Crush.
The first few years of his life were not the easiest. He was a gorgeous dog but a very difficult one to train. He wasn’t fully potty trained until he was almost three years old. His excited running usually ended in things knocked over – sometimes I was one of those things. He would regularly run away – sometimes for hours at a time. And he also had a lot of stomach issues. I still have dreams of using a butter knife to clean in between the cracks of my wide plank pine floors to scrape out the vomit that seeped in.
Then when he hit four years old, he started having some prostate issues. I was no longer cleaning puke off the floor. My job changed to cleaning blood off the floor. We’d always go to the vet for his issues, but there was never really a resolution. He usually just got better on his own, and the vet remained perplexed. Crush liked to keep us guessing and hated to see us worry.
My life in the last three years could be described as chaotic at best. I uncovered a lot of hard truths. I oscillated between fear and sadness regularly and finally resolved to make some really important changes.
While Crush wasn’t with me the entire way, he was a part of 99 percent of my journey. I always felt bad about leaving him for a month in 2019, but since then we’ve been each other’s rocks. Whenever I cried or had no idea what to do next, he wouldn’t say anything. But he was there. He would lie in bed with me. He would place his enormous head on my lap. And when I really needed it, he’d grab my head under his chin and nuzzle me. It was his way of giving me a hug.
When he was with me, I knew I was safe. After seeing the things he’d seen, whenever a man would come in my house, Crush would stand between us. It could’ve been the plumber, a boyfriend, or my uncle. It didn’t matter. No one was ever going to hurt me again. Not while Crush was there. He taught me how to stand confidently, knowing he always had my back.
When we moved to my new house a little over a year ago, he was nervous at first. But after he adjusted, he loved it. He knew how to navigate through each not-Great-Dane-sized room, and he loved his fenced-in yard. He loved barking at people as they came by. And he loved gently taking cookies from the neighbors and the mailman. He was the big guy around here. Everyone knew him. And everyone loved him. There were days I would mistakenly leave the gate open, and he would never run away. When he lived in the old house, he regularly needed an escape. But here, he just never wanted to be too far from me.
The last several months of his life were hard. There were ER visits with no resolutions. There were unexplainable issues and different medicines to help with different symptoms. At one point, it seemed like he was back to his old self. He was running around the yard. He was getting on and off the couch – and my bed – with ease. And I thought he turned a corner. But sometimes those corners are life’s way of giving one last burst of energy to enjoy what’s left of life. After a seemingly normal puking session, taking a few laps around the yard, and snuggling with us from couch to couch, he laid on the floor and took his last breaths. I was glad I was there for him. And I was glad I was able to love him as he went.
He knew I was safe.
He’d seen my stress melt away. He knew I wasn’t crying anymore. And he soaked up the peace I created around me. He loved my boyfriend. After being around him for almost a year, he stopped getting in between us. He’d even lie next to him on the bed and give him his adoring chin-nuzzles. He saw me through some of my worst times and he loved me and supported me. I guess he’d likely say the same thing about me. As much as he saved me, I too saved him. And together we were quite the pair. I’ll be forever grateful for the lessons he taught me. I’ll be forever grateful for making the unlike-JoAnna-on-the-whim-online-dog purchase.
I used to lovingly say to him, “Who’s Mommy’s Monster Man?” And he’d wag his enormous tail and give me his big goofy smile. I miss the big guy. His absence leaves a huge hole in our day-to-day life. My house feels bigger. My life seems less important. And there will forever be a space for him in my heart.
Thanks for being there for me when I needed you most. Thank you for helping me stand on my own two feet. And thank you for always watching out for me.
I love you, Crushy Pants.
I love you and I miss you.
You were a good boy.