if i dont get this out of me i prob wont be able to go to sleep
Christmas, 1992. I was seven months old and still getting used to, you know, being alive. My family already had a dog: Barney. He was a sheepdog named for Barney Fife from the Andy Griffith Show. He was less of a family dog and more of my mom’s dog. My dad surprised her with him while she was struggling with depression after her third miscarriage. Barney never trusted me or my dad, for some reason.
Regardless, a family friend’s dog had just had a litter of puppies, and they were giving them away. My mom loved “the one with the big feet,” but my dad swore he wasn’t taking a puppy home, on the basis that it would “shit or throw up in the car on the way home.”
Sure enough, we had an extra passenger in the car that night. She was three months old, born in September. Her name was Molly.
Her and Barney were like brother and sister. They roughhoused, wrestled, and played with each other for a good year. As Barney grew older, though, he grew less trusting of everyone except my mother. One night, he attacked a two-year-old me, tearing half of my face off. I don’t remember the incident, but I had to get plastic surgery to heal. I still have the scar.
Needless to say, Barney had to be put down.
But this isn’t his story, though he does have a significant role later on. With the Burton family now strictly Roger Sr., Debbie, Roger Jr., and Molly, she took a huge role in everything. I would often roughhouse with her just like Barney did. There is an old Polaroid of me pulling her tail. You can see a number of scratched on my arm. We were both three or four at the time.
Ah, sibling rivalry.
We had a wide open backyard at the time and she could always outrun me. I would chase her and chase her until I wore myself out, but she would still be raring to play. She always had that wide grin, that bright look in her eyes. It was contagious.
I was really into dog-related things when I was little, probably because of Molly. I loved Balto, I loved Homeward Bound, I loved Road Rovers, I loved Air Bud, I loved Shiloh, I loved dogs. But none of them could ever match Molly, no matter how often I terrorized her or teased her with food.
The new millennium rolls around. We both turn 8 in 2000. This was around the time that my parents’ marriage began to fall apart. Me and Molly lived with my mom while my dad floated around. The divorce finalized in April of 2001, and it was Molly, Mom, and Roger vs. the world.
The next four years involved the three of us moving around from condo to apartment to ugly white house. Eventually we settled in at Charlestowne Square, a nice condominium complex with a wide field that Molly could run in.
I was in sixth grade and riding the bus by then. Every day, as I would walk home, I would see Molly poking her face through the blinds in front of the sliding glass door. It was like clockwork. She always knew when I was going to be walking through the door. She was always there.
She slept with my mother. My bed was too high for her to get on under her own power. But it was better that way. 2004 and 2005 were rough years for my mom, to say the least, and Molly and I were the glue that held her together. My mom would wake up and walk Molly, every day. Without fail. I would walk her when I got home, and my mom gave her the evening walk.
The routine halted with the sudden passing of my mother in June of 2005. When my dad delivered the news, I specifically remember the silence after he dropped the bomb being broken by Molly’s paws clacking on the hardwood. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for her.
But she pulled through, just like me and just like my dad. She and I moved in with my dad in his bachelor pad at a place called Laurel Bluff. He walked her in the mornings and I walked her in the evenings. The routine helped her as she grew old. People always commented on how good she looked for her age, and how perky her tail was.
She had a beanbag to rest in as well as a real bed. In 2007, the three of us moved into an actual house, where Molly had room to roam. All my friends knew her and they loved her. In fact, I was friends with a good number of people who were younger than she was. I often teased them by telling them to respect their elders when they were around Molly.
Molly didn’t care either way, though. She was the nicest dog ever, when you didn’t pull her tail. That tail was always wagging, though. Eventually, though, it stopped curling.
14 is old for a dog. 15 is really old for a dog. 16? That’s unheard of. Molly turned 16 in September of 2008. A couple of months prior, I had spent two weeks in Japan. I bought her some Japanese dog treats, which she loved. My dad often left on business. He would go to Atlanta or DC or Chicago, leaving me alone with Molly.
However, his childhood friend, Gene, would come and house-sit. He was who gave Molly her morning walks when my dad was out, because lord knows I couldn’t wake up that early. Gene is a man who is unmarried and lives alone, with no pets. He doesn’t “like to get attached.” Perhaps the story of Gene is most telling of the story of Molly.
In early 2009, he was housesitting when he called me upstairs. He noticed how Molly was losing weight and having trouble walking.
This picture is from that time. He broached the subject I didn’t want to broach, though: losing Molly. I tried to play it straight and it worked, but I knew deep down inside it was going to happen soon.
This is from May. You can see her ribs. Her tail didn’t curl anymore. Her legs were noticeably weak. Gene talked with me again, sometime in June. He was more emotional this time, because he knew it was coming. I remember him saying “I swore I’d never get attached to anything ever again!” as a tear rolled down his face. “She’s not even my dog but she touched me just the same.”
This was taken the day before her veterinary appointment. She could no longer stand up on her own power, nor could she control her bowels. She was still alert, though. Even though she had cataracts in her eyes, she still followed me and my dad around the room by moving her head.
The sad day came. It was bright and sunny; a beautiful day. My two closest friends, DeShawn and Jordan (even more of a dog person than me) were with me as we drove Molly to the vet in her favorite blanket. We took one last picture together, and DeShawn and Jordan left me to be alone with my dad and Molly.
We took her in and placed her on the table. I was asked if I wanted to leave. I teared up a little and said, “No. She’s been with me as long as I can remember. I’m not leaving her now.” as I placed my hand on her soft head. I remember her looking up at me and giving me that wide grin one last time; as if she knew this was it for her.
The vet gave her the injection in one leg, but she couldn’t find a vein. She tried all four legs, but to no avail. Molly’s veins had shriveled up so much that her feet were ice cold and there was no blood vessels to inject anything into. Eventually, it worked, and tears streaked down my face as I watched the life escape her eyes. I looked to my dad and I think he shed a tear two; only the second I have ever seen him do so. The only other time was when he was racked with tears at my mother’s funeral.
The tears of sadness turned to tears of joy as I walked outside. She was out of her misery. She was in a better place. I don’t know if there’s an afterlife, but if there is, I know who was waiting there to walk her. DeShawn and Jordan hugged the shit out of me and I hugged them back. They were Molly’s family just as much as I was. We took Molly with us.
We went to my Nana’s backyard and dug a hole. A big hole, like a big field. We buried Molly proudly, like a queen. I said a few words for her and we placed a dog statue as the headstone, with Molly’s collar around the neck. The dog statue was actually a memorial for Barney that my family had owned since his passing. It served as a sort of dual memorial for my family’s only two dogs.
I like to think that she sneaks out when the sun is shining and runs circles in the field, knowing full well no one can catch her. I still visit when I can, most recently at Christmastime. She was covered in snow but I knew she was just fine.
I tell everyone I can about Molly. I knew her longer than I knew my mother; shocking, but true. My dad and I never thought of getting a new dog, because we both knew that no dog could ever replace Molly. When I grow up and start a family of my own, we’re going to get a dog to grow up with our children. But those same children are going to hear countless stories of Molly.
Molly, the best dog who has ever lived.