Raider Power: The Purest Puppy Soul That Ever Lived

IMG_2829

They keep asking me if I’m ok. Usually I am. But I still have moments when the thought comes back, “He’s gone. It’s irreversible. He’s gone.” and I just break inside.

We got Raider when I was 7 or 8. Somehow a Kooikerhondje (Coy-ker-hound) mix found his way onto the streets of South San Antonio and was picked up by a family who couldn’t keep him, so they brought him to our church, where we fell in love. (Kooikerhondje’s are basically Dutch Border Collies and super rare in the US.) Suddenly we had a puppy. I hadn’t had a dog since the golden retriever, Misty, who died when I was super little. My only memory of her was her very last day. Misty had been mostly an outside dog, I think, but we tried Raider inside for his first few days. Little did we know this poor baby had every kind of worm a dog could get. Our ‘free’ puppy quickly racked up $1000s in vet bills within a few months of having him. My parents grumbled and groaned, and maybe money was tight for a bit, but we took care of him. However, during his sickness, he became an outside dog.

Now, just for everyone reading this….don’t make your dog an outside dog. It’s just bad. Take the time to train them to be indoors and everyone’s lives will be easier, I promise.

All his life, the only thing Raider wanted was to be with his family. Well…and be petted by his family. Usually just sitting with us wasn’t enough. He split his puppy days between sitting in front of the patio door and whining/watching us, and running trenches into the ground every time anything passed our corner yard. And he barked. He barked so much. Occasionally I would go outside to play with him, brush him, and love him, but I’ll be the first to admit we did not show our love as we should. I hated the outdoors, with all the bugs and the heat. And Raider was outdoors…which sucked. One time I went to feed him and there was a giant (I mean GIANT.), yellow spider sitting on the wall next to the door. I nearly fainted. Needless to say, I did not spend much time outside for a while until it laid its eggs and moved on. I was NOT about to risk that monster jumping on me and eating me while I tried to cross the threshold! Poor Raider.

He wasn’t completely abandoned, though. Every morning, my parents would take him on their runs. One morning my mom tripped on a speed bump and broke her finger. Raider could have taken that opportunity to make a run for it, but he sat next to my poor mother until she was ready to get up. The best boy!

I was the last one to go off to college, and when I did, Raider became solely my parent’s responsibility. I came home to one weekend every month my Freshman year, and when I did I always tried to spend time for Raider, as I had seen the error in his upbringing but could do nothing to fix it. Until I met my latest ex, who taught me how to properly care for dogs. I brought him home to meet my family one weekend. He took one look at Raiders living condition and declared that we HAD to take him with us. So we did. Raider went to college! (see Raider Diaries) At this point, Raider was 12. Kooikerhondje’s typically live to about 13. This boy was oooold, but he fit into our little band of misfits so well. We called him Boof, because his incessant barking as a puppy had mellowed into a soft…boof…for lack of a better description. My useless guard dog ūüôā Raider loved to lay with us on the bed, the couch, the floor, eat puppucino’s, and run after the tennis balls we threw.

A couple of months in, Raider began to pee randomly. We couldn’t figure out what was causing it, because it really was random. So we took him to the vet. Mr. Vet found out that this boy had a butt tumor that was raising the calcium levels in his body and causing him to feel the need to pee more. A butt tumor. Of freaking course. He gave Raider a year to live after we admitted no one had the money to pay for a surgery. We cried over our baby and decided that as soon as he showed signs of pain, we would let him go. And then we waited.

Raider went another year, watching a cat and another dog join the family, and only showing his age a little more. He watched my ex leave me, my struggle to maintain my household and life as a ‘single mom’, and eventually watched me help him into my moms car for the trip back to my hometown. I could no longer care for all of my babies by myself and my parents offered to take him back. They also promised to keep him inside from then on, since he had proven himself. Shortly after moving home, my parents found out Raider had to have more teeth pulled because his gums were rotting. (Remember how I said dogs shouldn’t be outside? This is why. Hygiene.) Another couple of thousand dollars later, his breath didn’t smell so bad and he was actually more hyper than ever. He was doing so well back home! Even with like no teeth!

The last time I saw Raider was when the family convened in Waco for Christmas. My boy was shaved like my parents liked him, basically toothless, but very happy and loving as ever. I gave him all the love.

March 1st, 2019, my mom texted me while I was at work that Raider’s tumors had begun to bleed. She had scheduled a vet visit for the next day, but we still couldn’t afford the surgery that would now be more invasive and expensive than before. The day that I thought I was prepared for had arrived and I was actually horribly unprepared. In the midst of trying to learn how to serve at a new restaurant, I constantly had to run to the back before I started sobbing in front of customers and coworkers alike. I was four hours away, working every day that weekend, and scheduled to go home in just two weeks. I knew I would not see him again.

I was right. The next morning, mom called to tell me they would be putting him down in a few hours and that she would facetime me so I could say goodbye to my baby. It was so short….I wanted him to hear my voice, hear the love I have for him, one last time, but I still don’t even know if he understood….and then the call was over. All morning I could only think about what was happening four hours away. My parents had brought a blanket with them, and I had made them promise to hold him and love him. This is what I imagined as the needles went in. I imagined my mother chanting “Raider Power” as she often did growing up. Raider was named for the Texas Tech Red Raiders, my parents university. I imagined my happy, unaware puppy lying down and slowly falling asleep. I imagined this and hoped, I prayed, that Raider knew how much he was loved. Because he was so loved. We were so oblivious to the care he needed for so long, but there was never a second that he was unloved or unappreciated. And I wish more than anything that my precious dog could somehow tell me that he understood, that my efforts at the end of his life were enough. Yall, the guilt eats me alive.

Raider’s tumors had become open sores. They were not going to get better. He would have to go back outside because the bleeding wasn’t stopping, and the sores would get infected. I know this. But my dog was still happy and full of life. It’s so hard to reconcile the fact that we took his life away. But what life would it have been in the¬†backyard he hated so much? I tell myself at least 10 times a day that he’s gone, and the finality of it still shocks me. At some point yesterday or today my golden boy was lifted into an incinerator and reduced to ashes that I will receive when I go home in a few weeks. He is gone.

I haven’t decided what kind of grand cosmic existence there is out there, but I hope more than anything that we have some sort of soul that goes somewhere when we die. If any creature in the world deserves a heaven, it’s my Raider. There was never a mean bone in that dogs body. I hope that he’s up there in the beautiful fields of grass and tennis balls and that he sees my heart. I hope he sees my guilt and the best intentions I had and forgives my ignorance.

This one is for you, Boof. I will live my life in memory of your pure love and cherish the years you gave me. Thank you for being mine.

IMG_0369
Raider’s last picture. Happy as ever. So oblivious. Ugh…my heart.¬†

5 Years Ago, Today

35522_1446578133062_4282426_n

“I said that Life and Love go on. But why do they?” -The Host

I’m thoroughly convinced every person has their “soul pet”. You know, it’s just like how you have a soul mate, and a best friend who is¬†the¬†friend. Mine was a grey and white cat with some anger issues, but an overall understanding of the family he lived with. We inherited him when my maternal great-grandmother passed, and to this day we still don’t know why she chose to name him Gretchen.

Gretchen withstood years of dressing him up in baby clothes, walking him through the living room as I pretended we were getting married, a single attempt to leash train him so I could take him to church to be blessed, and my ever-changing nicknames, such as ‘Munchie’. If you haven’t guessed, I was a child who had never been taught how to properly love a pet. But he taught me. As I noticed my precious companion aging and losing more cat wars in the neighborhood, I began to keep him closer. My childish games ended, and soon my wise little cat began to trust me. Before bed I would make sure he was inside so he could sleep on my pillow with me. In storms I would stand outside calling him until he finally appeared. I would get home from school, he would run to me, and we would go inside to cuddle on the couch or explore the internet together. We were inseparable.

With him I welcomed responsibility. I was very diligent with my care for him, despite the arrival of our dog, Raider. When it came to Gretchen, my vision narrowed into a tunnel, and the only thing that mattered was keeping him safe and happy so he wouldn’t die. I guess I believed he might live forever, but deep down I knew that wasn’t the case, so as a reward for completing middle school with awesome academic standing, I asked for a kitten. Don’t get me wrong, Daisy wasn’t brought home because I was tired of an old cat. She was a glorified replacement for the inevitable loss of my best friend. In my mind I had years to get them acquainted and then make sure she learned the ropes of the house, so that when Gretchen moved on she could sleep on my bed and play on the computer with me. It’s a horrible intention. I was so naive. Gretchen’s last year was spent fighting for his rights to the family, putting poor Daisy in her place, and desperately trying to maintain his position in the neighborhood despite his age. I clung to him, as angry with him as he was with me for the Daisy situation. Things seemed to finally settle down after months of tears and breaking up cat fights in the middle of the night.

Of course, as soon as we began to find a happy compromise, disaster struck. Freshman Shelby had only been in high school for about a month. I look back on her now, thinking of the little, sheltered girl who had no sense of style and was still pining after her first love. I remember going through ups and downs and just barely understanding the idea of being a teenager. Gretchen had been there through it all, constantly on the watch for any signs of distress that his purr could ease. I hated riding the bus home every day, because it was over crowded and none of the school officials seemed to care that 3 kids were sitting on a benches designed for 2. On September 23, 2010, my mother drove me to school as she usually did, reminding me of my orthodontist appointment that day. She picked me up again, took me to the stupid office, then drove me back. At one point a hearse and all of its funeral glory passed us. We commented idly and moved on, not realizing then that said vehicle was foreshadowing the end of our day. After school, I rode the bus home as I usually did, silently dying over the awkwardness of having to hold my viola in an already cramped space. When we reached my bus stop, I saw my mom sitting on the corner of our street. I was immediately overjoyed, because what freshman girl doesn’t enjoy walking home with her mother? Not me. Not when I could sense the waves of misery rushing off her. I may have been naive, but I was a very intuitive child, and this pain especially could never have dodged my radar. As we walked down the street I ran off my list of people who could possibly affect her this way…Daddy, Cj, Grammy, T, Boppy, Raider, Daisy…and then I got to the name I was desperate not to mention, because somehow I knew. Somehow I knew it was him. And then I was running. I was running like the nerds I saw racing across the school courtyard with their backpacks flapping behind them. I hit our property and the only thing on my mind was finding him, my viola be damned. That melodic piece of wood I treasured so much was flung on the driveway along with my backpack, and then I launched myself onto the kitchen floor before the one thing I loved more than any possession in the world. And I screamed. And wailed. And lost myself to such agony that my virgin heart couldn’t handle. I remember crying out “It should have been Daisy! You took the wrong one!”…stages of grief, you know? Nobody, no human or animal had ever stared at me with eyes that said they understood me from my head to my toes. Not my parents, my sister, my family, my friends, or our other pets. That wonderful, stiff body before me had once held the soul of someone who actually¬†knew¬†my own soul…..and the thought alone that I had lost such an important piece of my puzzle was enough to rip every part of my being.

I don’t remember at what point my mother told me the story. I just remember seeing her guilt stricken face through my tears and almost hating her for taking my only true friend from me. She didn’t mean to. She loved him almost as much as I did. They all did. Gretchen had grown slower, and when he tried to race her car into the garage….he got stuck between the frame of the doorway and the wheels. She immediately drove him to the vet, having to listen to his wails of torture the entire 10 minutes. He took his last breath before she could get there. It wasn’t her fault. It’s unfair to blame her for such an accident. I think part of me blames him for not understanding his own mortality, and myself for not being there to watch over him. Years of absolutely loving him and stressing over his safety, and I didn’t get to say goodbye.

When the wailing subsided, and I had no more tears to give him, I began to busy myself with a Facebook memorial. I dove into scrapbooks and picture boxes, finding old Christmas photos and silly shots I took of him when I was younger. The sun began to set, and my mom insisted on digging the hole in our backyard herself. I wrapped him up in a piece of cloth and a trash bag, because no bugs were going to dishonor Gretchen by eating him. Then, with my parents at my side, and a hyper Raider running around, I laid him in the grave my mom dug. I said a speech I had written to thank him for putting up with me, being my childhood husband and never leaving me to cry alone. I’m pretty sure that was the first time I heard my father cry. To keep Raider from destroying my sweet cat, we put stones and our old bench on top of the newly placed dirt. I was proud, because we had given Gretchen somewhat of a memorial area.

I watched the stones sink lower every day. Eventually I stopped sitting on the bench. I went through an enormous amount of pain and happiness the rest of my freshman year and I learned to deal with it on my own. I began to resent my kitten for being alive less and less. The wound scabbed over, as it always does, but I was never the same. I still get lost in memories and the trauma of that day, and sometimes I have to stop what I’m doing and breathe to keep the tears away. Even now, I find myself having to stop writing multiple times to calm myself down. I don’t think I’ve retold the story since it first happened…

She’s not the same as him. She doesn’t like sleeping with me when I go home, nor does she enjoy being inside much at all. She gets into fights with other cats, but even I can tell she’s just a cowardly princess. Not a king like he was. I love her dearly. I raised her. But no other cat will have that place. No one will fill that void, and this will be my eternal gift to him.

Fear is the Absence of Courage

30 Topic Challenge: Day 14- Your fears


You know that quote “Courage is not the absence of fear”? There’s actually a second part to that quote, in case you didn’t know. I tried to Google it to be witty and quickly realized it’s been changed up by so many famous people, it’s nearly impossible to find the origin. So, we’ll just leave it there. I made my own quote to parallel it! Both are true, just like a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle can never be a square. Have I blown your mind yet? Good, now enjoy my fears and try not to think about yours.

1. The Unknown

  • Meaning the bumps at night, pitch black, events that aren’t properly scheduled, etc. If I can’t clearly picture or understand it, I will fall into a pit of anxiety.

2. Abandonment

  • This is a complicated one…I like my alone time, but I hate being alone. If that makes sense.

3. The Dark

  • yes I am 19 and afraid of the dark!¬†This stems from the unknown…my imagination goes wild, and suddenly I’m seeing Slenderman by the door, shadows swimming across the floor, and remembering all the scary movies/tv shows/pictures I’ve ever seen. Night time is fun, yall!

4. Death

  • This shouldn’t be on my list, because I claim to be Christian…but would I be human if I didn’t fear the inevitable silence? I mean, as much as we believe Heaven is waiting, we don’t know for sure. Jesus is my homie, but I have my doubts sometimes.

These are just the core fears in my life. I could go on for hours about how much I can’t stand spiders, or hate heights, but those are less significant.


Let’s go somewhere exciting! How about my dream future? This will take some pondering.