How to say goodbye to a friend in 11 days


Kaitlynn Breeden

Roxy, 12, lived a life of endless tennis balls and car rides. Photo courtesy of Kaitlynn Breeden

Kaitlynn Breeden, Editor-in-chief

My family is originally from Ottumwa, IA and growing up in Nebraska didn’t stop me from visiting during the summers and winters as a child. My brother, cousin and I would always take trips up to Iowa to visit our grandparents and other relatives for a week at a time. In the summer of 2009, my cousin and I drove up to Iowa with my grandmother for our yearly visit. One of our many stops on our trip was a visit to my cousin Cindy’s farm outside of town. When we arrived, Cindy immediately showed us the litter of puppies her six-year-old rat terrier had a few weeks back.

I watched all five puppies wiggle around in the grass, legs wobbling as they take each step. All the puppies ran together and plopped into a pile in the grass, with one lone puppy on its own a few feet away. I picked it up as it wiggled like a fish out of water and held it tight in my arms. As it licked my face, still wiggling away, I looked at my grandma and said, “I have to have her.” She called my mom and then after a long phone call, my mom’s answer was “maybe.” Not the right answer, but halfway there.

When we left Cindy’s farm I said goodbye to the puppy, but I knew I was coming back for her. Later that night at my aunt Brenda’s house, my mom called me and told me that we didn’t need another dog and to kiss my dreams goodbye. I am shy in public, but I have always been a Broadway star with how fast I can cry and have a melodramatic meltdown. I cried for hours, annoying the rest of my family but also gaining enough pity that my cousin called my mom again. When she answered the phone, he said, “Renee, just let her have the damn dog, the crying isn’t going to end.” My dramatic ass heard my wish was coming true, and I was anxiously waiting to bring this dog home. My grandma took me shopping at Pamida to pick out all the supplies I would need to take care of my new best friend on the way home to Fremont, Ne.

The four of us were on the road back home and I was exhilarated to introduce my puppy to my schnauzer, Yaeger, back home. The car ride honestly was easy if I remember it right. She just hung out and we stopped along the way for her to get out and release some energy in the stops’ park. When I got home my brother, Nathan, was thrilled that we had a new dog, but my mom still was not a fan. She decided that Nathan got to name the puppy since I picked her out. Nathan didn’t have any good ideas, so he went with my mom’s first choice, Roxy. From that day on Roxy terrorized our house for roughly the next three and a half years. I lost many socks, blankets, bed sheets, crayons, and meals to that dog every day since she arrived.

My mom made empty threats out of frustration multiple times about getting rid of Roxy, because of her destructive and chaotic behavior that she always maintained at 100%. There’s many bad things Roxy did, but there’s a lot of bad things she didn’t do as well. For example, when she was around two-years old she ran out the front door, and immediately targeted a woman with a baby stroller. She did jump up and put her front paws on the baby stroller, but at least didn’t stick her face in there. Another time Roxy and Yaeger both got out, but Roxy just walked across the street to the park to smell the flowers. As for Yaeger, my mom found him walking safely on the sidewalk, taking himself on a walk around the block. Roxy also holds the award for being the only dog I know to eat a box of 64 crayons and walk away with pride. The first three years of having Roxy felt like letting a monster terrorize us in our own home, but her charm kept us all waiting out her early evil stages of life. We knew that soon enough she would mature into a calmer dog that didn’t ruin our belongings with no remorse but would still have her same goofy and lovable charm.

Roxy did grow up into a mature and calmer dog, she grew up right alongside me. She greeted me every morning when my alarm clock went off, she greeted me at the door when I came home from school, and eventually work every day. Every day she did something dumb to make me laugh, and she brightened every day of our lives. She made a good day a great day, and a sad day a better day. Whenever I was upset, crying in my bedroom, Roxy would come in and join me on my bed. She would jump up and lay next to me, lick my face a few times and then just sit with her head on my leg. She sat with me and just kept me company during my sad moments, comforting me until I felt okay again.

Roxy lived a great life of having endless tennis balls and the ones that are supposed to be indestructible. I say supposed to be, because she still found a few to tear those Kong balls and frisbees to shreds. She loved taking over one of our beds, snuggling into the blankets and laying in peace. She also loved her multiple dog beds dearly, though she had a habit of never actually sleeping in them. Most of the time she would sleep next to her dog bed, with just her head and front legs on it. Her favorite foods were green beans, peas, carrots, and any dog treat you threw her way. Roxy’s greatest athletic talent was being the ultimate ball and treat catcher. Any tennis ball, a bacon strip, a chicken nugget, whatever you got, if you threw it for her to catch in her mouth she got every time no problem.

Her favorite activities were car rides, walks around Johnson Lake, playing fetch, stealing any food she can sense out, and barking at neighbors and passing cars from the living room window. She was the star of the show in my family and has completely had our hearts since 2007. The past month while I’ve been here in Wayne, my mom noticed that Roxy seemed to be slowing down. She moved around less, ate less of her dog food, and just seemed to be signaling that something was wrong.

Eleven days ago, from when I’m writing this on Oct. 30, Roxy’s vet diagnosed her with lymphoma. We were told she had three months left to live, and we were cut short to 11 days today, Oct. 30., to say goodbye to our sweet girl. At 12-years old she only got sweeter with age. She loved us all each and every day and I have never felt more thankful for crying my eyes out on a family trip and making a scene. I would give away my whole collection of fun patterned socks to have my best friend back, safe, and healthy. I could sit outside in the cold weather spending countless nights wishing on every star to have this dog come back to me, but I’m not in denial I’m just heartbroken.

How do you say goodbye in 11 days? My mom kept her comfortable at home keeping a close eye on her. Even while working she checked on Roxy frequently throughout the day with the two dog cameras, she had set up in the living room. Roxy was given lots of extra treats, more green beans at dinner time, and lots of love from my parents, brother, and me. You cannot grieve the loss of a 12-year friendship in 11 days, but in those days, you can thank them for all they have done for you. I left Wayne on Thursday, Oct. 28 and went home to see my girl and do just that. I brought my cat, Tickles, inside with me and as always, Roxy greeted me at the door and walked over to her dog bed, actually laying all the way on it this time. I set Tickles on the couch before walking over to the end table is next do.

I laid down on the floor next to Roxy and pet her, thanking her for all she has done to bring joy and happiness to my childhood, teenage years, and early adult life. I thanked her for cuddling with me, even though it wasn’t her favorite thing. I thanked her for always making me smile when she could tell I was hurting and listening to my ugly crying all these years. I thanked her for never barking and snitching on me when I was sneaking in/ out of the house (sorry mom but it’s been three years, how mad can you be right?) I thanked her for ending her phase of running out of the front door while we were bringing in groceries or running out the back gate while my mom was mowing. I thanked her for helping my mom, Nathan, and I all grieve when we said goodbye to our first four-legged member of the family, Yaeger, in 2017 while she was also grieving the loss of her pal herself. Dogs provide the kind of love and kindness that is unlike any other. Be good to your dog and they will be good to you. Show them love, soft beds and blankets, kindness, and lots of good pets and they will be the best friend you’ve ever had until the end.

Every star has an end, and sometimes you want it back. Roxy was the star in our family, and I know we all would have done anything to have more time with her. She was truly one of a kind, there will never be another like her. Our obsession with our sweet dog made my mom, Nathan and I all take hundreds of pictures of her through the years. I’m glad my mom made us fanatic picture takers, Nathan’s slowly converting, because we have hundreds of sweet and funny pictures to look back on that documented our time with our new guardian angel. We loved her from the beginning, and when my stepdad met my mom in 2011, he fell in love with our goofy dog as well.

Though we didn’t know we were saying goodbye in 11 days, we spent those 11 days we knew she was sick returning every ounce of love she gave us in our 12-years with her. It’s unbelievably hard to say goodbye to your best friend in 11 days, but each of us did the best and most we could in that short amount of time. From the time I picked her up out of the litter of puppies on Cindy’s farm, to stroking her head and giving her one last kiss, I loved her during every moment and during every step of her journey.