"Why don't we have a dog?" I asked as we turned off the TV.
Mom and dad looked at each other blankly. Why didn't we have a dog? We had just moved into our very first home, complete with large backyard. I was old enough to take some of the responsibility and learn about raising a pet. It was time!
Before I knew it, mom was scouring the newspaper ads looking at dogs. We preferred to stay away from breeders, as they were known to produce expensive and ill dogs. We visited a few homes of owners whose dogs had puppies, but nothing felt right quite yet so we continued our search.
When we entered the next home, we came across about ten small, black puppies in a crate. They were tiny and darling. Mom looked at my dad and nodded. This was it. We wanted a female so dad carefully checked each puppy and found the very last girl! She was ours.
We packed her up in the car and she took turns sitting in Mary and my laps. We debated a few days over the name, often between "Taco" and "Bell" since she happened to be part-chihuahua. Ultimately we decided on "Belle" with an "e" as a tribute to one of our favorite Disney characters.
Belle was one of the wildest, spunkiest dogs I have ever known. When she was young she would play fetch for hours upon hours, never relenting when you were tired. She loved running around in the backyard and chasing squirrels. When we moved into our newer house, she spent afternoons outside with Mary and I - chasing us around the pool.
Belle lived with us for 18 years. She was often the rock for our family. When you had a hard day, you went to Belle and she would kiss your face sweetly. She saw us through the hardest times. She spent her days scouring the house looking for food. When Pixie, our other dog, came along; the two became inseparable.
Mom and Belle were the closest. Belle was her best friend and vice versa. Wherever mom went - Belle was never far behind.
A week ago, Belle's health took a turn for the worst and her enlarged heart made it difficult for her to breathe. My mom held her in her arms when they put Belle to sleep in our home. They wrapped her up, let Pixie smell her one last time and took her away to be cremated.
Losing a pet is like losing a family member. A piece of your heart is suddenly gone. Pets fill your life with so much joy and peace and love.
We miss you so much Belle, girl. Until we meet again.