Ed. note: Sunshine died today (Jan. 13) at about 2:20. She died peacefully, with her head in my arms, hearing as she drifted off what a wonderful and good dog she was.
Once upon a time, I used to write obituaries. (Most real reporters have. If you haven’t, well…) Sometimes I still do. Big newspapers have ready-to-go obits, works in progress for really important people who, when they die, are going to require a lot of attention –like the Pope, the President, etc.
This is one of those obituaries, one I’m writing while my eyes are relatively tear-free. This is for Sunshine, my dog. She has not died, yet, but her time here with me is drawing to a close. I write this, not just in tribute to a really cool dog I’ve had the privilege of hanging out with for the past six years, but to give thanks to God for those things He brings into our lives to change us, to save us even.
I told my now-fiance A last night as we sat in my living room trying to figure out what to do with her that she was responsible for helping to bring much of what I have into my life — my house, my fiance and my emotional health. I believe these things are all true. For whatever reason, God used that really cool dog as an agent of change in my life and I am forever grateful.
Sunshine, Madame Fuzzy Fanny, Miss Barky-Pants, my sweet pea and fur friend, the honey bear and S-dog…has had a really good life, I think. She’s done things, gone places that most dogs never get to do. For the first year I had her (she was about six), she was the official newshound of the Journal Gazette’s west bureau. She came to work with me, slept under my desk, snoozed in the bureau kitchen, made me go for a walk in downtown Columbia City every afternoon around 4:30 and wagged her tail whenever I came back to the office.
She covered fires, floods, tornadoes, city councils, school boards and jury trials. Often sources figured out (I told them) she was outside and would often go out and say hi. The mayor of Decatur loved her because they had the same hair color. The police chief of Bluffton went so far one day as to go and take her from my car and put her in the police department. When I came to the police department, I saw my dog and the police chief trotting down the hall back to her office. We were looking for treats, she said. Later she told me she had just put her own dog down and could not resist enjoying an afternoon with a dog, any dog. Sunshine was snoozing under her desk while we talked.
She watched my back on those early morning web shifts from hell, including the recent wrenching morning that involved the fruitless search for the little girl. Sunshine always offered her ears for scratching and belly for rubbing after I had a long day at the courthouse. She listened as I swore and grumbled about my job. She chewed her rawhides with enthusiasm, rubbed her face with her paws when she was excited and buried bones throughout the yard, usually on Sundays.
Knowing she was soon to be my dog made it easier to break up with my Italian #*(&$% boyfriend, necessary for my emotional survival. I bought my house so she’d have more places to bury her bones. I took a chance on dating because, well, why not, the dog worked out so well.
But most importantly, and this goes back to those pills I take every day, she provided me an amazingly safe place to do the work I needed to do to get well. The VA prescribes dogs to veterans with PTSD. My therapist did the same back in the day for me. And for about seven months, Sunny came with me to every session, snoozing under Annie’s desk while we talked.
She was not a particularly well-behaved dog. She was extremely lazy, and people often mistook it for a desire to please. She really couldn’t give much of a crap. If she determined that the cost of moving (committing the sin) was outweighed by the benefit (eating the apple pie on Thanksgiving), well then, she’d do it. If not, forget it. She never, ever came when she was called and was horrible on leash.
But she loves me. And I love her. And for some reason that dog was brought into my life to work for my salvation. I have no doubt that she did just that. Should she pass on tonight, and go chase bunnies in the eternal back yard, I know that my life has been so much better because of that really cool dog.