When a dog chooses an owner

The beginning of October marks three very important birthdays in my life.
First: my wonderful mother, Tammy. She went through a lot to give me life, and then she had to raise me for a couple decades, and for that I don’t think there’s a thank-you big enough for that. I love her, and wish her a very happy birthday.
Second: my yellow lab, Cosmo. He turns four on Oct. 10, and he is a goofy, handsome, and I love him very much. He is my best friend, I tell him that all the time. If someone told me I’d have a dog that needed to be comforted after he had to walk in wet grass, I’d say it didn’t sound like a dog. Lo and behold, he’s a giant baby who needs reassurance, comfort and attention all the time.
Third: Phoebe. Both my mom and Cosmo loved Phoebe.
When I was 11, we lost our family dog, Honey, in October. She was the dog that raised me, and my parents and I missed her terribly. But it was October, and my dad was adamant about waiting until after the winter to get another dog so there wasn’t any house-breaking in the snow.
After a month, he was tired of our whining and he and I drove up into the thumb area to look at a litter of puppies for my late November birthday.
When we got to the house, there were four little golden retriever puppies chasing each other around the kitchen island. I sat on the floor, and one crawled in my lap.
My dad and I called my mom and told her that the puppies didn’t look healthy so we didn’t get one, and when she got home from work she was incredibly surprised and delighted at the puppy we took home. She and her sisters were plenty healthy, and we decided on the name Phoebe as a family.
They say dogs choose their owners, and Phoebe chose me over and over again.
For over 13 years, she was my doggy sole mate.
She was a fast learner, and one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever known. I taught her how to play hide and seek, and she and I would take turns running around the house hiding until she got bored and just wanted a treat for her efforts. She knew a lot of tricks, but she also knew a lot of things we never taught her.
When my grandmother was sick, and my mom would bring her over for a few days, Phoebe would park herself right beside the recliner where my grandmother sat. This was something she continued into her old age. If someone was limping, she’d follow on their bad side and try to guide them around obstacles.
Contrary to that, she was the worst puppy. She chewed up everything: kitchen cabinets, bar stools, the drywall. Once, she destroyed my model of the solar system the day it was due. I had to turn it in with a big bite taken out of Saturn. That teacher laughed.
My math teacher did not laugh when I tried to tell him that my dog pulled my homework out of my math book and shredded it (still don’t know how she did that without damaging the book), and he assumed I was lying until the science teacher overhead and vouched for me that my dog was destructive.
Despite her bad puppy years, she and I got along great. We had a special connection. I could look at her and know what she needed or wanted with just a look. If it was itchy skin, if she wanted an ice cube to munch on, or if she just wanted me to put a blanket on the floor for her, I knew. She always took up the whole blanket when I tried to lay with her on the floor, it was her favorite.
She was also very expressive in that she smiled. If you didn’t know she was friendly, it looked like she was showing her teeth, but she would be showing her teeth so hard she’d sneeze over and over while she wiggled around all happy to see you.
She came to me at a time when I didn’t have many friends and was having a difficult time at school, and she stuck by my side into my adulthood. There were many times when she and I would hop in the car on an adventure and it felt like all I ever needed was her and my car to get through anything.
And when she died in 2020, it was with her head in my lap, the same way she first met me.
Every year at the beginning of October, we remember her birthday and my parents and I say we had the most wonderful dog. And we thank her for choosing us, and choosing me, every single time.

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