[02] To Big Pup

 

I may look like I’m unhappy in the last photo but his nose was just so cold!

Around this time would have been Strider’s 15th birthday. We’re not sure of the exact date so my mom gave him the 15th (I thought it was the 16th for a while now) but either way, since he was a rescue, we can only guess what his age was when we got him.

We lived near New Orleans at the time (in Mandeville) and it was December of 2003 when we took him home from a shelter in New Orleans after my parents had visited because they decided it was time for us to get a new dog now that we weren’t restricted by any housing laws to not have one.

Our family always loved dogs. When I was very, very young (like infant young) we had two dogs while living in our home in Three Rivers named Molly and Jasper. After we moved to Santa Barbara and couldn’t bring them with us to live at our apartment due to rules, my mom’s dad took them in and took care of them until they passed away. So I never really knew them even though they were in my life.

So Strider was very much a presence in my life and was always there throughout those crazy teen and early 20-mid-20 years. We loved him but I think Strider always bonded closest to my mom. That was probably due to the fact that when we got him, he had a bad bit of kennel cough that kept him up during the night and my mom held him and was there for him, holding him while he was still a puppy. He would protect my mom if my dad ever pretended to play fight with her and he always followed her around the most.

But he was a tolerant, friendly and playful dog. The best dog we said (no offense to Buster who we love so much but Strider was a very active dog in a way that Buster wasn’t/isn’t sometimes). Strider had a lot of personality. You knew when he hated something and you knew when he loved something. He loved laying out in the sun and having sauces on his dog food and getting pet around his ears. He loved wandering our yard in Three Rivers and nosing around in the trash looking for scraps to only usually get in big trouble from my dad lol

Strider was always There. I know I probably took that for granted sometimes. It was always so easy to ask my mom after I left home to send me a picture of the dogs sleeping. I took thousands upon thousands of pictures of these dogs. My parents always joke that they are the most photographed dogs to ever exist because of how many photos I took of them. I have made a bunch of silly music videos of them play fighting or running around because they were my favorite subjects to film when I had a video camera. Seen here and here.

He wasn’t the cutest puppy (if you ask my mom haha) but he was playful as hell and loved playing with our neighbor dog at the time named Lucky. Poor Strider had to live through New Years and any other fireworks-based holiday in Lousiana at the time which scared the hell out of him. I say that because there it’s pretty common for folks to get professional grade fireworks just for recreational use and every neighborhood turns into a display that rivals Disneyland haha That was one thing Big Pup hated like most dogs: fireworks.

Moving to Lousiana was hard for all of us. While it was, in the end, a good professional move for my dad at the time, it was a difficult transition for us moving from California. For me it was tough because it was my first year of high school and I knew absolutely no one. Religion is a major part of every facet of culture out there, especially when it comes to networking and since I was an atheist heathen, I made very few friends. So in a lot of ways, my family and Strider were the only ones I could really count on.

On top of the bugs and weather, that year was pretty wretched and we were all too glad to move away. We went to Florida next, following my dad to the University of Florida and town of Gainesville for 2.5 years. It was within that time we got Buster who was a new puppy from a family friend of ours at the time. My parents tried to surprise us but I was a bad kid at the time and hacked into my parent’s email and saw a picture of him so the surprise was a little spoiled. But I wasn’t prepared for the fluff monster we got and how much we fell in love with him, including Strider.

The two never had any friction or issues. They bonded so well. They played with each other, slept next to each other, never really got too jealous when the other was getting attention (I mean Buster is kind of attention seeking but never to the point where he absolutely couldn’t STAND Strider getting attention). They were best friends and brothers in every way.

Strider had grown into his face around that time too to be the pretty, handsome doggo that he was. My parents took both of them for runs and to work sometimes. They could stand to be alone but they also loved coming with us on trips. Our dogs went pretty much everywhere with us. They were family. Are family.

I could go on about how I don’t really talk much to my extended family. I mean, ever. I have one but we’ve all been estranged for so many years, it’s like I haven’t really had one since 2009 or 2010. Gosh maybe even prior to that. On both sides of my family. My mom, dad, brother, Buster and Strider are it. And so maybe you could chalk up why his passing hit us so damn hard, because our unit is so small but at the end of the day, I don’t think it would much matter whether I talked to my cousins or not, Strider was with us all the damn time and now he’s not.

So to talk about Strider’s life is to really talk about ours as a family unit since he was so deeply ingrained in it for more than 14 years. When you look at that, depending on your age, it seems like a lot or a little. For me, it’s still half my life and now moving forward into the next 40, 50 or 60 years of my life without this pup in it seems daunting and so very sad. While I moved away because I was trying to pave my own path as a single, independent and strong woman, I never, for one second, forgot the people in my life (my parents and my brother) and the animals in my life (Buster and Strider) who gave me so much and helped me grow in ways I can’t sum up into words.

There is a lot of sadness in me still knowing I wasn’t able to be there at the end. That the line there was so thin. I was literally over the Atlantic ocean on my way home when my parents put him down. But it couldn’t wait another day. He was on his way to becoming ill, his body was going to shut down sooner than later and they wanted him to go as pain free as possible.

But that absence is there. Always present, always nagging. Grief that comes and goes, tightening our chests or filling us with bittersweet laughter. I sometimes talk about him like he’s still here because trying to preface everything with ‘was’ just sucks a lot.

Strider lived in the moment. He loved and loved a lot. He was always happy to eat, sleep in the sun, poop a lot and play with Buster. He was goofy and playful and gentle. He loved seeing and meeting new people but he would soon grow bored of you and sit back down. He loved fetching and roughhousing with Buster. My dad could rile him up. I could rile him up. He’d rip stockings off walls during Christmas and would try to eat all the wrapping paper until we’d have to bat him away (Buster too).

I have so many memories that come and go. There are days and moments now I don’t think of him much due to life and a lot of recent loss around our state and the world. However my time to think of him now seems to come in the evenings. When I’ve settled down and am laying in bed and I see my black lab stuffed animal I’ve taken to bringing with me on trips lately cause it reminds me so much of him. I’ve had this animal for god, 16 years? Anyways I see that dog and my mind settles and I think of Strider and it’s like all the air gets sucked out of me. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I just try to focus on reading something or watching an ASMR cause that’s something that’s helped calm me down in recent months. But honestly, I still think of him. While talking to my parents on the phone, I feel that loss still there and sometimes it’s hard to work around it and to feel like things might be okay.

So today I wanted to write about him. Finally get all these thoughts into words and share them. I will spare everyone of the 1000+ photos I have of him! Haha.

Alex and I will be moving into a house next year which is very exciting and we are allowed to have a dog. I know that I’ll make the right choice when the time comes and sometimes it’s fun to think about having a new little puppy around. I’d want a rescue, maybe from DAWGS or somewhere else in town. I’ll have to see. But then the next day I think of Strider and how painful his loss and how much I just do not want to relive that again. How much I don’t want any of us to relive such a loss. So right now, hearing people say ‘Katie needs a dog’ is hard because…sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I just want Strider back. We have Buster still too and we love him very much.

I don’t know what anyone thinks of me during this, that maybe I’m using my dogs death as some kind of crutch or ‘special snowflake’ syndrome. Frankly, I just don’t care if that’s the case. He was so important to me and my family and his loss and still so deep and so moving, it’s difficult to move past sometimes. But we are all trying in our own ways to move through the grief. We haven’t yet dispersed his ashes but maybe next month.

Thank you though for anyone who reads this. I appreciate it so much. So much.

Love you, Big Pup. You are missed.

I made this video back in 2009 and haven’t been able to watch it since he passed away but I feel like this is my little tribute to this guy.

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