I lost my girl August in March of 2019. She had been battling bone cancer. At the time of the diagnosis, the doctor told me, “I’m not going to predict how long you have with her. Bone cancer is tricky. It could be six months, it could be a year.” I was grateful he did not place a timeline on her life expectancy because March of 2019 was a full two and a half years after she was diagnosed. She was a fighter. And, selfishly, I was going through a pretty rough time and I swear she just knew I needed her to be there. When her younger fur-brother died very unexpectedly in September of 2018, I think she knew I needed her even more.
While I didn’t do the popular “bucket list” with her, I did make sure every moment counted. Every. Moment. We had a professional photo shoot. We celebrated special events with doggy cake. We took memorable trips. On a rather routine trip to the Raleigh area to visit “grandpa” we stopped at a pet store. The store had quite the selection of stuffed toys so I asked August if she wanted a toy. I let her sniff down the aisle and even presented her with several options, which she ignored. But then we came to a stuffed stingray. She sniffed. She snagged it. And so it was her choice.
The stingray was the only toy in the toy basket personally picked out by August, so after she passed, it held a very special meaning to me.
I hadn’t intended to adopt another dog so soon after August passed away. But the house was just too quiet. It felt empty and I didn’t want it to feel that way. I, didn’t want to feel that way. Griffin had lived at the shelter for more than two months. He was friendly, but aloof. I told him, “This is the last night you’re going to spend in the shelter buddy.” In hindsight, I think he had shut down more than I realized. It was six months before I noticed his tail wagging in excitement. Almost a year before he would regularly request affection, and readily receive it. And about that same time he started showing a real interest in playing with toys.
I filled his basket with toys. Lots of toys. Some, were toys I had bought for August and her brother Pecos, including the stingray. Some toys, he destroyed immediately. Some toys, he savored for awhile. A week. A month. Maybe a few months, depending on his mood. But the stingray? He played with it. He mouthed it. But he never made a single tear in it. Ever.
Fast forward to November 2021. It’s really time for new toys because Griffin is down to just a few and I’ve been slack about buying new ones. The few he has left are torn in some way or another, but not the stingray. That stingray doesn’t have a mark on it. It’s not because he doesn’t play with it, he does. Quite often. And it’s not because it’s some indestructible Iron Man of a toy. It’s a Fluff n Tuff (which are amazing in their own right, but I digress!) but it’s still vulnerable to destruction.
Why is the stingray still around? I’d love to say it’s because Griffin knows it’s symbolic to me and doesn’t want to make me sad. Or that August is still looking after me because even though she couldn’t hang on any longer in this life, she makes sure the stingray is still around as a sign I know she’s still looking after me.
The most logical reason? It’s just a coincidence. And it probably is. But I’m still gonna pretend both my baby girl and my Griffin are just trying to tell me, “Hey mom, we’ve got you. We’ve got you.”