The Magic of a Dog
I knew he was gone the moment I awoke on Christmas morning. While other families somewhere laughed, smiled, and opened presents, I could only stare listlessly at my own presents, and those placed in the shopping bag in the corner, never to be opened. With the death of my beloved golden retriever, Kennedy, a part of me had also died. For Kennedy was no ordinary dog.
I was born with a disability. Although I have done intensive physical therapy since I was small and have made significant improvements over the years, I find it difficult to do some things which most people take for granted. Until I was eleven, I needed a aide at school. I ...view middle of the document...
In this way, Kennedy came into my life. He brought me independence of the kind I had never known before. For the first time, I could move around the school without an aide following me, because he pulled my wheelchair and carried books in his backpack. I could shop at the mall by myself or with friends, and Kennedy would put his paws up on high counters to pay for things I bought. And I found that non-disabled people were less afraid to approach me; in fact, the dog seemed to make them forget my wheelchair and see me as a regular person.
Kennedy was a beautiful dog, with golden fur that almost exactly matched the color of my hair. He would prance beside my wheelchair, his head held high like a king, and loved to show off his unusual skills when he knew people were watching. In fact, Kennedy's uncanny intelligence and ability to sense and understand what went on around him was unusual, even for a service dog.
Two weeks before Christmas, I took Kennedy to the veterinarian for his regular checkup and shots. After listening to his heart for a long time, the vet informed me that Kennedy had developed a heart murmur. She could not identify the cause and recommended that we take him to Ohio State University's veterinary hospital for tests. A week later, an echocardiogram revealed a blockage in his aorta, the main artery of the heart. The Ohio State vets could not determine whether the blockage was a blood clot or a tumor and so placed him on blood thinners, hoping to dissolve the blood clot if indeed it was one.
On Christmas Eve, Kennedy became extremely lethargic and could hardly even walk. We were visiting my grandparents in Pittsburgh and rushed him to the emergency vet hospital. He died early Christmas morning, and we later found out that he had a cancerous tumor for which any treatment would have been useless.
It is nearly impossible to explain the magnitude of the loss I felt when Kennedy died. He had been with me 24 hours a day for the past four years, always by my side, wherever I went. Now, suddenly, he was gone, and I had been given little time to consider what life would be like without him. Shortly after his death, I would start to move my wheelchair and say "Kennedy, let's go," automatically, before realizing that he was not there and would never be again.
Once, two days after he died, I dreamed of Kennedy running through a green, beautiful field. He came to me and nuzzled my hand as if to say goodbye, and I could actually feel his fur. Never in my life had I experienced a dream so real,...