Dogs come in and out of our lives so quickly that in a mere decade we are able to experience their entire lifespan from puppy to adult. As I think about our German Shepherd Zelda and what she means to our family I think of her in relation to my two boys. Zelda is 4, which is exactly a year between my two boys ages 3 and 5.
By now Zelda is pretty much an adult yet my boys are still so young. She was once an equal playmate with my first born but quickly transitioned to a more motherly relationship with my second born. She has since become a protector, warding off any monsters lurking in the woods outside and little eyes close knowing she is the barrier between them and the unknown. And also the reason I myself can sleep at night. She is a loyal companion as she plays the occasional werewolf and ‘Bat-dog’ in their superhero games and eagerly tags along for their backyard adventures.
When I go to look back on these years, after Zelda has crossed her rainbow bridge, the thing that will make me the most sad is the realization that she was always there with us. For me she is my shadow and company every day and sleeps at my bedside every night. She is the only other soul to notice my motherly anxieties with my middle of the night check-ins, covering-ups, and covert breathing tests.
My boys are always the first to be greeted with a good face licking upon entering the house. This draws squeals from them and I find it sweet as I attribute it to how mother dogs lick their puppies to put their scent on them. During bath time she likes to dip her nose in the bubbles to steal bath toys as the boys giggle at her frothy mustache. Snowy days are her favorite, she romps and rolls around in the fluffy white and eagerly catches and eats every snowball thrown at her. She hates to miss out on a car ride and loves having her own old fashioned donut during the boys' occasional morning excursions to the donut shop drive thru. Zelda especially loves holidays when our family convenes and she gets lots of belly rubs and handfuls of goodies from hidden hands under the table.
To my children she will remain a permanent fixture in their childhoods, they have never known life without her. Zelda is always captured in all of our obligatory pictures, even when she was not meant to be in the shot, there she appears, in the background, with her boys. That is the thing with dogs, if you open your heart and home to them their natural loyalty shines, they want nothing more than to be by your side, and that is the unconditional love that every family needs.