It was the fall of 1996 and I was 12 years old. My brother – 10 at the time – and I had begged my mom for YEARS to let us get a dog, but to no avail. And finally, only months before she would wed my step-father, she succumbed to our constant pleading.
My aunt was in the throws of a divorce and neither she or her soon-to-be ex-husband could keep their purebred standard black poodle, Licorice. She was about 2 years old – born Nov. 1, 1994 – and we were more than willing to take on the responsibility of our first dog.
And we did for the next 12-and-a-half years of her life. This past Saturday, after amazingly fighting death for nearly six months, my parents decided it was time to let Licorice go. Her health had been declining since Thanksgiving – although around Christmastime, it vastly, yet temporarily, improved – and despite my mom’s best efforts to help that dog in any way possible, she was convinced our 14-year-old pooch was starting to suffer.
As sad as it is, the decision to put our dog down was a long time coming. My parents never thought she’d make it to December, and yet she proved everyone wrong, acting like her normal self (minus the speed, of course, due to her age) through the winter. But her health rapidly diminished once Easter came near and by last week, Licorice was barely able to walk, refusing to eat and always appeared in a daze, likely deaf and almost blind.
I said my very sad goodbyes to her at Christmas. I tried to spend time with Licorice while I was back home, knowing it’d be unlikely that I ever saw her alive again, and I weeped as I gave her one last hug before hitting the road back to NC. If there’s anything for me to be grateful for right now, it’s that I at least had a chance to tell her how much I loved her and a final farewell.
Living so far away, it almost doesn’t seem real that she’s gone – though I’m tearing up as I say that. If I lived at home, constantly feeling the void left by her death, I’d be a crying mess. To be honest, I think stepping through that front door without her there to greet me would instantaneously break my heart.
She was probably the best dog anyone could ever have. She was a pro at sitting, shaking hands and even begging. Prior to welcoming her into our household, my aunt taught her to “dance.” Licorice would stand straight up, on her back legs, and hop in a circle. It was so cute! And I’m certain I’ll never get Sophie to master that skill as her “Aunt Licorice” – what my parents called her when referring to Sophie – did. Licorice loved everyone she encountered and was the friendliest pet someone could ask for. She was always well-behaved and happy. Looking back, I wish I spent more time with her, but I suppose that’s how it is when anyone or anything dies. You can’t help but crave even another moment together.
Above all, Licorice was my mom’s dog. Sure, my brother and I preferred to think she was ours, but in reality, she was a mama’s girl all along. It kills me knowing how badly this loss is hurting my mom. I’m even afraid to call and ask how she’s handling it for fear she’ll start crying as she did Friday when telling me the sorrowful news. I just hope she finds some relief soon. We all know it was time to say goodbye, but that, in no way, makes it any easier to do so.
When I adopted my Sophie, I bought her a purple collar, just like Licorice’s. And now that she’s gone, it’ll be a great way to remember my very first dog. To say she’ll be missed doesn’t feel like enough, it feels like the understatement of understatements, but what else can I say? She’ll be a tough act to follow, that’s for sure.
RIP Licorice. We hope you loved your life with us, because you truly brought something amazing to all of ours. We’ll always love and miss you. ❤
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