I’m a dog person. I always have been. When I was little we had outdoor dogs, but I fought and fought to make Nugget an indoor dog - even sneaking him in a couple of times until my parents finally gave up and thus began countless nights of snuggling.
I remember dreaming of becoming a veterinarian one day. I used my birthday money to subscribe to Dog Fancy, read every animal book you could imagine and then became devastated when I found out vets sometimes have to put animals down. I couldn’t bare the thought.
Nugget lived just shy of 15 years. We got her when I was in elementary school and one weekend when I was in college I felt a nudge to drive eight hours home and see Nugget. I’m so glad I did because she passed a few days later. That was the first time I can remember my dad ever crying. It was tough. No, it was brutal. Nugget was our family dog. The runt of the litter that no one wanted, but my mom knew we would love her. The farmer who gave her to us didn’t think she would live a full life. But it’s always the one down on her luck who beats all the odds.
Fast forward to my mid-twenties. I was living all over the country, working on political campaigns. Everything I owned fit in my vehicle and I never knew where I was headed next. So of course logic would tell you it wouldn’t be prudent to get a dog. But who needs logic when there are dogs longing for somewhere to call home.
I innocently went to the shelter one day, determined to convince friends of mine who grew up overseas that dogs are nice. Not thinking through the types of dogs found at the county dog shelter, we arrived to find several pit bulls barking loudly and not exactly wanting to be petted. (Don’t get me wrong, I love pit bulls, it’s just that they can be intimidating upon first introduction.)
I turned around and assured everyone it would be fine, to follow me. But we didn’t get very far. Everyone else stopped at the first cage. I went back to see why, and there, curled up in the corner having given up hope was a long-haired dachshund. I read the sign, he was supposed to be destroyed in 3 hours. I wouldn’t have it. I immediately said I would adopt him. But there was a catch. He had food aggression from an unknown past. A broken leg that was healed back together, causing him to limp. Deaf in one ear and afraid of men - this pup needed help and he needed it fast. I agreed to come to the shelter every day and work with a trainer. After 10 days, I was cleared to take him home.
Our first problem was what to name him. The shelter called him Teddy. There was one vote for Mittens, two for Littlefoot and I broke the tie and cast the winning vote for Canoli. (Yes I know it’s spelled wrong, but my name is spelled differently too and I wanted him to stand out.) After a budget breaking trip to Pet Smart, we had Canoli and a boatload of things I thought he would want. Except that he didn’t want any of it. He was afraid. He even threw up when I took him home. He tried to run away and rolled over in front of a moving car. So that first night, after he fell asleep, I curled up next to him on the floor so he wouldn’t be alone. By the next morning we were inseparable.
Canoli followed me from Michigan to New Hamsphire to Washington, DC. We went to Niagara Falls together, he came to work at the United States Capitol with me, went to the best doggie daycares, had birthday parties, flew all over the country with me and finally got to live out his retirement on the beach.
Then, slowly but surely over the last year he slowed down. His face became gray, he stopped eating, would drink more water than is normal and slept all the time. Deep down I knew he was hiding his pain and holding on for me. Canoli suffered from IVDD, a disc deterioration that many dachshunds have because of their long backs. For the last five years we spent countless hours at the vet treating his spine with laser therapy, medication and finally surgery. He miraculously survived an intense spinal surgery in 2016. After the surgery the vet said it was so bad she didn’t think he would ever walk again. But within 3 hours of major surgery he was up walking and ready to come home. That’s my Canoli. Always fighting to be with his family.
If you knew Canoli when he lived in Michigan or New Hampshire or DC, you may say he was a bit grouchy. Okay, very grouchy. He was very selective in whom he allowed into his inner circle. He protected me like none other. It even took Josh a couple years of marriage before Canoli would let him into bed without growling at him. But his baby sisters changed him. Made him softer, more tolerant and kept him calm. Those three became my triplets. He protected them as fiercely as he protected me.
So when the time came for me to be the strong one for Canoli, it was the hardest thing I had to do. I remember holding him the entire evening before he died, begging God for yet another miracle. To heal his back like He had done so many times before. But I felt a nudge again. A gentle whisper that it was my turn to protect him and be strong. I knew it in my bones. Canoli was in extreme pain, like I had never seen before, and I had to be the one to say goodbye.
When the morning light hit our window, I sat there counting down the hours until the vet opened. Just holding my Canoli, telling him it was okay to go- that we would see him again one day. The girls woke up on schedule and we all just sat in bed with him, saying our goodbyes. We went to the vet as a family. I walked through any and all last minute miracle therapies we could try, but the vet just looked at me and said I was doing the only kind thing I could do in that moment. Logically that helps, but nothing can make the pain of that decision any easier.
We FaceTimed my parents, who always watched their first grandpuppy as I traveled around the world. It felt like we were on the phone forever, but it was only for a mere 2 and a half minutes before the vet came back. I wish I had longer, more time to say goodbye. But all I could do was hold Canoli while the final injection was given. Emma held my hand while my tears streamed down my cheeks onto his head. It was over. As I handed the vet Canoli, I almost fell down sobbing. Josh was there to grab me.
Nearly ten years. That is how much time we had together. Ten years. In that short time, Canoli taught me how to be a mom. How to love with all my heart. He showed me that in even in the most helpless of situations, there is hope. After all, the dog no one wanted got a second chance at life and it was a magnificent one.
The hole in my heart will always be there. The pain of that decision will stay with me. But more importantly, his memory and how he changed me will live on. Because of Canoli I will always advocate for rescue dogs. Because of Canoli I am a better mom, learning that sacrificing for others is so much better than my selfish desires. Because of Canoli I see the beauty in broken, abused and those left behind. Because of Canoli my girls are forever animal lovers. His spirit lives on in their joy when they see a dog, or when they ask for him, or when they kiss his picture. He changed all of us, even Josh, for the better. That grumpy old dog left for dead didn’t like a lot of people, but he LOVED his family. Thank you puppers for being the best unreasonable decision I have ever made. We love you and miss you always, and will see you again one day. In the meantime, give Nugget a kiss from me and get yourself some lobster. Love, Mom.