First of all, happy birthday. You would be nine today. This morning I would've opened my eyes and snuggled you (and possibly sang to you) and told you how we'd celebrate when I got home from work later. I would've brought you some cake and ice cream and a toy that I'm sure Maggie would have immediately claimed as her own. You wouldn't have cared, you always shared your toys. I would've made you both pose in silly party hats and posted the pics on Facebook for everyone to look at. You see, a lot of people loved you besides just me. A lot of people had their day brightened by a cute Joe Boxer pic. I think it's safe to say you had a fan base.
Today is going to be a little different. 11/7 will always be different, for the rest of my life. Today I woke up and thought of you as Jake and I did our morning ritual of me hitting snooze and him snuggling up on my shoulder to catch a few more ZZZ's. I finally got up and had to coax him out of bed, just like I sometimes had to do with you. We went downstairs and Jake went outside to go potty then came trotting back in and waited at the treat jar, just like every other morning. He ate his treat and we headed back upstairs. I scratched his butt as he walked and he stopped at the landing so I could rub his back, too. We do this every morning now. It's comforting to me. I like it- it's good for me. And it's good for Jake.
I was looking through old pics this morning. I wanted to remember all your other birthdays. I always tried to make them special with cake or treats and presents and party hats and singing. You were the light in my life and I wanted to celebrate you every single day. Although my memories aren't all as vivid as they used to be, I still remember so much. The time you bit Kevin's head because he wouldn't stop shaking me by the shoulders (he was joking, and I did warn him, but he thought it was funny- till he was sporting tooth marks in his forehead). When you heard my friends out in our yard late one night trying to wrap my car in Saran Wrap- I didn't hear a thing but you sure did- you alerted me right away. You always kept me safe. I remember days of working as a waitress and coming home to find something new you had destroyed (digital camera, medicine ball, remote)- that's when I had to start crating you. But you were OK with it and always happy to see me when I got home.
We went on road trips together. You were my best buddy, my sidekick. I lost track of how many nights you watched me cry from whatever man had broken my heart at that particular time and you leaned on me and licked my tears till I couldn't do anything but laugh and hug you and feel lucky to have you as my dog. I could look at you, just a look, maybe a head tilt, and you could read what I was thinking. People may not believe that but you and I know it was true. You understood me and I understood you.
That's why I knew I had to let you go that day. I knew in my heart you were ready and you were done- that you had fought as hard as you could and I fought with you but we weren't going to win this one. Life has not been all that great for me since you left. I always said that it would drive me to the brink of insanity to lose you but I didn't realize how true that statement actually was. I miss you every single day and I'm not sure what I would do if I didn't have Jake to hold onto at night. I often wonder what you'd think of him...he's kind of an asshole but that's a puppy thing and I do recall you were a bit of an asshole till about age 4. Of course I say that about Jake just as lovingly as I said it about you. It's a term of endearment, it truly is.
Tonight Barb from Camp (you remember Camp, you liked to go there and play) will probably come over and share some wine with me. It's not just any wine- it's a special bottle she brought me on New Year's Eve 2015- two days after I had to let you go. It was my favorite wine and they had stopped making it but somehow she brought me a bottle. I said I would save that bottle till your birthday and raise my glass to what an amazing dog you were, and it still sits in the cupboard today. I plan to sit and think about all the ways you were my perfect boy. Jake and Maggie will wear hats and they'll get some cake. I will be as upbeat as I can but make no guarantees I won't cry. Crying is good- it means you affected me that deeply. You changed my life, Joe Boxer. I wouldn't trade one moment for anything.
Someday I hope to see you again. Sometimes I think you're still all around me. I look for signs but I can't be sure. Happy birthday, my boy. Mama loves you to the moon and back and always will.