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The Perfect Dog by Danita Fowler

Hi y’all. You’ve met Danita Fowler, the author of this story, on the blog before. Click here for more about Danita a.k.a. the puppy goddess. I personally met Danita last year, soon after I lost my own soulmate, Miss Annie Daisy. When I heard Danita’s story about Belle, it comforted me in such a strange, sad, and wonderful way that I asked her if she wanted to write about Belle for the Farnival. Putting her feelings about Belle into words was hard for Danita, but her efforts were worth it. Please enjoy this heartbreaking story of unconditional love.

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“When I saw a black spot on the road, I knew. If the human heart shattering can make a sound, my screams would be that sound.”

January 3rd 2008 was a Thursday. I was sixteen. It was Christmas break of my junior year. The plan was to eat lunch with my parents, then go to Springfield Animal Control on Industrial Drive and drop off a bag of dog food. As we sat at O’Charley’s, I remember talking to mom and telling her if there was a Chihuahua at the shelter, we would be bringing the dog home. I don’t even know why I thought about bringing home a Chihuahua that day. I love dogs but I never considered myself a small dog person.

After lunch, we pulled into the animal control parking lot. I grabbed the dog food, told mom I was going to look around. All eight kennels were occupied: a shepherd or lab here, a couple pit bulls there, a couple of mixed breed puppies. My eyes stopped on the third kennel to my left. A Chihuahua mix! She couldn’t have weighed more than seven pounds. She had a crooked nose, and her tongue hung out of the right side of her mouth but not because she was panting. It was permanently that way. The moment we locked eyes I knew she was mine. I opened her kennel door, and she let me pick her up. The animal control officer told us she had been brought in earlier in the week after someone witnessed her getting ditched on the roadside. She was on hold just in case someone called, but by Monday I could adopt her.

Monday, January 7th was a school day. I had spent all weekend picking out a collar and name for my new baby. I had decided to name her Belle. It meant “beautiful. I skipped my first class of the day, and just a few minutes after eight, I walked through the doors of the animal control office. The officer opened Belle’s kennel door, and she jumped from his arms to mine.

I held her the whole way home. Her tongue hung well past her jawline. It was dry, cracked, and so dark it looked almost black. She had the worst breath ever. She had no teeth except for one bottom tooth and half of another in the back. The vet guessed she was between 8 and 10 years old. Belle weighed almost eight pounds and had tumors on her stomach, but none of it mattered. I was totally and completely crazy about her.

I can distinctly tell you how happy I felt January 7th, 2008 when I brought her home, but I can’t even begin to describe the pain I went through five years later on October 1st, 2013 when she died. If I had known what was going to happen, I would have just stayed in bed with her all day.

Instead, I woke up and as usual let Belle out to do her business, then watched her come back inside. A few hours later I was in my room and had this terrible heartbreaking feeling that something was wrong with Belle. I asked my parents if they had seen her, but they hadn’t. We searched the house, yard, and roads, praying as we walked. Dead or alive, I needed to find her. I posted her on Facebook. I checked with neighbors. Nobody had seen her.

At 5:10 pm a friend messaged and asked if Belle was still missing. She said she had passed Belle walking down the road, heading towards the Kentucky state line. I’ve never moved so fast in my life. She was literally one mile from the house. Mom drove while I watched for Belle, but we didn’t get far before mom stopped. When I saw a black spot on the road, I knew. If the human heart shattering can make a sound, my screams would be that sound. As soon as mom went to pick up Belle, I grabbed my girl. One of the most important living beings in my life was gone, and I couldn’t tell her how sorry I was.

The day after Belle died was equally hard. I didn’t sleep much. I kept waking up and looking for her. My biggest fear was that Belle thought I had been the one to abandon her. Did she think I had gotten tired of her? Did she wonder where I was when she needed me the most?

At her cremation, I watched the men put my baby in that machine, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I stood there for an hour and fifteen minutes while they cremated her because I was never leaving her out of my sight again. The easiest part was picking out the urn; one of them had a flaw mark on it. It was the obvious choice for a dog with a tongue that permanently hung out. Thankfully, the men at Faithful Friends made the wait bearable by talking while we waited, making me both cry and laugh.

There’s a picture frame near Belle’s urn that says, “When I saw you I fell in love, and you smiled because you knew.” Belle’s picture is in that frame. That perfectly describes our bond. I miss everything about her, but mostly the simple things. I miss her hugs. No matter what kind of mood I was in, Belle would jump on me and put her paws on my shoulders and nuzzle me. I miss the tick of her nails on the floor. The way she would start off sleeping on top of my pillows and by the time I went to bed, she would get under the pillows. I miss how my arm would break out in an allergic reaction when I held her. I miss dressing her up in all the clothes I bought her, and seeing how excited she’d get over her AC-DC hoodie. I miss how she could be next to anyone, but if I sat down she was with me. I miss how fast she moved when she heard the timer on the stove because she knew it meant chicken, but what I miss most about Belle is her ability to make life brighter. She was pure perfection.

I’ll never know why Belle was dropped that winter in 2008, but I’m glad she was. I’m glad I had the chance to know this amazing little dog. For a long time I thought Belle came into my life because she needed me. Turns out I needed her.

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