Happy came into my life in a special way. When I was eleven, my back problems began. I didn't know exactly what scoliosis was then. I knew I was hurting quite a bit, but I could still play, and I didn't look any different, so whatever. I knew soon after I began seeing doctors, I was fitted for a back brace. I knew my parents (my mom especially) worried about me. I knew that after nearly a year of missing school days and getting x-rays, all of us knew the back brace was no longer working. I began to get a better idea of what scoliosis was and what the next step would be for me. My orthopedist began mentally preparing me for surgery, but wanted to hold off for as long as possible for my body and bones to develop. Ideally, I believe doctors didn't want the surgery performed on anyone under the age of 16 if they could help it. I don't know if that's true any longer.
By my 13th birthday, I had difficulty running around outside without becoming short of breath. I was on the couch nightly due to pain in my back, but I didn't think about the pain much. In fact, I remembered it then, but can only vaguely recall it now. What did bother me was completely superficial: I was crooked. I hid this as best as I could through baggy jeans and hoodies, told myself that baggy clothes were part of my "style", and rarely looked in a mirror to get me through. When my doctor realized that my surgery couldn't be held off any longer due to declining health, he scheduled it two months after my 14th birthday. My biggest fears during that time: "Would I wake up during surgery?", "Would I FEEL the double rod in my back?" (EW), "Would it hurt more?" My mom told me the surgery would change my life for the better, and that I would FEEL like a new person. I put my trust in her (she was Mom after all....knowing of all things) and left it at that.
As the date loomed closer, I focused on...dogs. I think it was so I couldn't focus on the inevitable, but that's what was on my mind. We had a dog already. Her name was Baby, and she hated our neighbors and my friends. (She was quite territorial) I'll admit that even though my family loved her, I myself didn't feel a strong bond. Make no mistake, I didn't dislike Baby, but I felt like she was more my mother's and brothers dog then anyone else's. I began to think about a dog of my own. I vowed to be able to walk my dog (if I could get one) pain free.
I remember working up my nerve to ask for a dog. It was like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, finding the courage to ask for a BB gun. I decided when Mom and I had one on one time, I'd rack my brain to find the perfect way to bring it up. At some point, it just spilled out to her Ralphie style: "Mom? Can I have my own dog?"
My mother looked a little bewildered at the question.
"Katie, we already have a dog."
"I know. But...she doesn't feel like my dog. I want a dog of my own."
Mom paused. I think she knew what I meant.
"Your father and I will have to talk about it."
I didn't know it then, but many years later, Dad told me I could have asked for a trip to Disney World and a pony and they would have given it to me. "We were in nervous breakdown mode."
All I knew was that I stayed quiet and patient after asking. I didn't have to say much anyhow. The very next weekend, we were at the ASPCA Adoption Day.
"Remember, this is your sister's dog," Mom reminded my brothers. "She gets to pick the dog and name the dog."
Like a kid in a candy store, I hobbled around in aw at all of the sweet animals looking for their forever homes. I came across a dog that caught my eye. His name was Sebastian, and I felt bad for him because he had three legs and was hit by a car. Mom worried about his health problems, and the fact that I seemed to be more in love with him then he was with me. We moved on. Out of no where, Mom spotted a big black dog in a pen. She wagged her tail so hard her whole body wiggled. The dog leaped out of the pen and into Mom's arms.
"Whoa!" Mom gasped and laughed. "I like this dog....Hi there!"
Happy wasn't a smart dog. I struggled to train her, but after 12 years, I gave up. She didn't know how to sit. She didn't come when you called her. She peed and pooped in the house for almost a year after we had her. She ate garbage. But Dad refered to her at "The sweetest thing on four legs." She was a mellow dog that stretched out by my side through thick and thin, including that surgery. She loved everyone, including other animals and children. She even would catch lady bugs, only to let them go. That was Hap.
My parents made the best decision for me in letting me have her.
Happy died when I turned 25. When I decided her arthritis became too much for her to handle, and she struggled to walk just as badly as I used to, I knew it was time to let her go. In her final moments, she was still full of joy. In fact my last image of Happy still had her wagging her tail. I've had many dogs in my life since then. But there's always that one special dog you never forget and you know you'll never meet another. Happy was it.