Twelve years ago, we added a new member to our family. Our neighbor had a co-worker who had found this abandoned, beaten, pitiful dog in the streets of Raleigh. After every possible means of finding the owner, our neighbor brought her home thinking she would be a good fit for our family. The Carters brought this dog to our home and also brought their black lab mix, Midnight. The two dogs had gotten along very well. We sat in our front yard getting to know this new dog and deciding on names. We decided that since she and Midnight would be great friends, and since she was yellow, we would name her Sunshine. We took her on a "trial" basis. Which by the way, means you will end up with the dog!!! Jack was not really consulted on this but I think privately he fell in love just as hard as the rest of us. Although we were all in love with this sweet, gentle dog, Allie was scared to death of her. Allie wept on the stairs when we told her we could not keep Sunshine if she was too afraid to come downstairs. "But I don't want her to live in a box!!" she sobbed. But amazingly, my strong little girl, took in a breath and walked down those stairs. It was a bit tenuous for the first few days, but eventually Allie and Sunshine became great friends. It helped that Sunshine was extremely passive and gentle.
We did not have a fence and had made an agreement with the Carter's that Sunshine could come play at their house with Midnight until we got a fence. Twelve years later, we still don't have a fence. But Sunshine and Midnight fell in love and had tons of fun playing in the backyard together and going on walks together. When one of us was out of town, the other took the dogs. Midnight was truly part of our family as well as Sunshine. Midnight spent many a Christmas and Thanksgiving with us while the Carters went to family. He was a very different dog. Where Sunshine didn't like to curl up by your feet or get into tight places, Midnight would crawl under your feet, lick you and crawl through anything to explore.
The last couple of years, the dogs have aged dramatically. Sunshine has a bad hip and Midnight has developed knots on his body. We tease about him being a grumpy old man because he began growling when I would go over to let him out in the morning. He didn't like being interrupted in his nap. He became very gray around the face and also became much slower. Gone were the days of frisking in the yard and then dropping into a deep sleep. Now, they both just slept most of the time. In the last 6 months we started noticing a decline in Midnight. He no longer ran out if the door was open. He no longer explored the back yard with Sunshine. He no longer barked at all the dogs that passed by. Then he began limping and not being able to walk up or down stairs. Last month, the Carters had to make the hard decision to put him to sleep.
The news was pretty sudden for all of us. But on a beautiful, cool fall day, I took Sunshine down to say our goodbyes. I was surprised by my emotion. I was incredibly sad. He had become a part of my day. Since the dogs had gotten slower, I would bring them to my house to play and nap. Sunshine and I looked forward to him coming down to be with us. At first, Sunshine was uneasy. She would go to him and then walk away. Finally she got close to him and laid down.
This past month has been heartbreaking. Sunshine wants to go down to Midnight's every time we put the leash on her. But when we do take her down, she whines and cries to leave after searching the whole yard for him. For several days she seemed to just mope about and whine unexpectedly. When the Carters would come down, she would whine after they left. I am sad that Sunshine has lost her playmate. I am sad I have lost a buddy. But I am really sad that the Carters lost a member of their family.
I know this day is coming for us. I see that Sunshine is aging more everyday. I dread that day. If losing Midnight hurt so much, how much more will I hurt for Sunshine?