Goodbye, dear Friend.
I remember the night you were born.
I was with my housekeeper that time and we watched as your mother, Sabrina, gave birth to all eleven of your siblings. We were fascinated because your brothers and sisters came in three colors: some were deep black like your parents --- but two were chocolate brown and three were like you --- almost albino white.
I remember that you were the largest of the group: you were the strongest. There was no doubt that you were the Alpha in your brood. I saw how you unconsciously pushed away all your brothers and sisters to get closer to your Sabrina who was doing the ceremonies that accompany giving birth. Your dear mother was tired but she tended each and every one of you with such great efficiency.
And I recalled how you were always the first to grab one of your mother's teats when you wanted to feed. We had to buy baby bottles, special powdered milk and vitamins to feed all eleven of your brood. But right at that very moment when I saw you, I knew you were the one I was going to keep.
I could not possibly keep all eleven of you. After three months, I knew I had to give up all the rest. And as each day passed, it even pained me some more because I was giving each and every pup their own names. But I was certain about what I would call you. There was no doubt about that. It was love at first sight: I knew your name the moment I set my eyes on you.
I remember carrying you as I fed you in a bottle. You were like a baby. When your eyes finally opened and gained sight, you were always the first to run to me whenever I approached the enormous make-shift crib we built for your mom and her litter. And as you grew bigger, you were always on my lap as I played with you and held you close to me.
You were always like that. Even when you grew up to be too big to carry. Until the day came that I had to give up your brothers and sisters --- and gave them away to my friends. No, I did not sell them as some said I should. You do not sell your friends. You give them to people who will take care of them and give them as much if not more love than I can possibly yield. I remember how, after some time, you found yourself alone. Left with only your mother and father. I do not know how Sabrina felt when suddenly all her pups were gone.
I do not know if dogs have feelings. If they also feel a sense of loss. Or if they miss their children. Or they realize when their pups are gone.
Sabrina died ahead of your father. Linus left about a year after your mother passed on.
And you were all alone with me.
You never disappointed me. You kept me company. More than that, you and I would take long walks around the village. You grew to be a such a strong friend. You would literally attack me each time I came home: you would jump on me then lie on your back, asking me scratch your tummy, tickle your chin. You would never cease to badger me until I gave you the bone-shaped biscuits you loved so much.
More than the long walks around the village, I remember the times when I was so alone and sad ... and decided to sit it out in the garden, hoping that all the sad thoughts would just be washed away by some moment of enlightenment. I recall the time I was so depressed ... and in tears ... and I felt something on my knee. It was your head: you were looking at me. You had such sad eyes too. I hugged you and you did not leave my side as if to assure me that you were there and that you knew how I felt, how I needed company ... and how you would never leave me.
You never failed to give me love. You never questioned my love for you ... inasmuch as you never asked for anything in return except a hug, tickling your chin, or rubbing your tummy.
I did not realize that almost eleven years have passed since you were born.
I only saw how age was creeping in ... how you moved a little slower ... and how you did not jump on me when I approached you. Instead you would try your best to run and put your head on my knees and ask to be hugged.
Just last week we noticed how you were so much weaker. But people in the house were still surprised to see how you tried your best to run when you saw me when I got home. Then you came to me ... lay on your back, ask your stomach to be scratched and waited for your hug. You never showed me how much pain you were going through ... or how the years have taken their toll.
You were always happy for me.
Today you left me.
I cry as I write this, my friend. I was at work, I could not leave ... when I got a message from the household that you were going. When I got home, you were already in your final sleep.
I would wanted to hug you one more time and thank you. Thank you for being such a beautiful and kind friend who gave me such unconditional love.
I shamelessly cried when I realized you were gone. There are those who will find this silly: you do not shed these tears for a dog. And there are many who will understand how I feel right this very moment.
You were not just a Labrador. You were my friend. And you are irreplaceable. And perhaps you have given me much more genuine love than some who walk upright in twos ... or claim themselves to be humans.
Sleep well, my friend. I will miss you. I am missing you right now.