We recently lost our fur baby, Pearl the Pug. She was a Christmas present to me from my husband (then boyfriend) after only one year of dating. Bold, right? Pearl was with us for 13 wonderful years.
I used to joke that I was only with him for the pug, and that was partially true. She was a major bond in our relationship, and she was with us for so many of life’s big moments.
Everyone says caring for a dog is a great first step to learn how to care for a human baby, and while I’m sure some of you will roll your eyes, I agree with it 100 percent.
Pearl was in many respects an “easy” dog, but she had her unique challenges.
Ultimately, she taught us the most important parenting lesson – that there’s so much MORE to life than us. This is embarrassing to admit, but for perhaps the first time in our 20-something-year-old lives, we had to think about someone ELSE first.
She was a bow-legged puppy who fit in the palms of our hands and perched on our shoulders like a parrot. We were instantly smitten.
We celebrated our January anniversary with a candlelit dinner in our living room, watching over our baby pug. She was my husband’s first dog, and he was too anxious to leave our helpless ball of fur.
Parenting lesson #1 – Date nights will look a little different.
Pearl was the first dog of my own (not counting our family dogs), so of course, I had to spoil her. I bought her all sorts of adorable outfits (which she hated) and all the accessories a dog could (not) ask for, including a dog carrier with a plaid print a-la-Burberry (which she also hated).
Parenting Lesson #2 – They don’t need things; they just need you.
We learned how to work as a team to care for Pearl in moments of crisis, including a surgery to remove a cancerous toe, which left her with a three-toed paw and instant street cred. When she began losing her sight, my generous and loving parents stepped in to give her cataract surgery and a new lease on life. Her diabetes diagnosis didn’t slow us down, either. My mother-in-law, a registered nurse, dutifully administered her insulin twice a day when my husband and I were out-of-town.
Parenting Lesson #3 – It takes a village.
Pearl made an impact on everyone she met, and probably earned thousands of smiles in her lifetime. She loved to float in the lounge chair at pool parties. Her tongue was as long as the days are short. The tennis ball was her constant companion. She was mine.
Before I knew it, she was grey in the face. She lost her hearing just before our (human) son Alden arrived, which was a blessing in disguise, as his midnight cries never disrupted her beauty rest. I like to think she loved him, but mostly she loved the soft blankets and quilts that came with him but truly belonged to her. I know he loved his Puh-rul.
Parenting Lesson #4 – Your child really is the most beautiful. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
I used to say Pearl had a face only a pug mother could love. But, if you can believe it, she graced the pages of not one but THREE magazines, including an ad for our groomer in a senior living publication – how perfect! Personally, I think she got more beautiful with age.
Parenting Lesson #5 – Trust your instincts.
The day she left us, she’d been sick a few times before my husband left for work. I was out of town with our son. As he drove around that morning, my husband felt the need to go back home and check on her. When he arrived, she was in her bed. He sat and held her, scratching her ears as she took her last breath.
Parenting Lesson #6 – Time flies. Enjoy every minute of it.
I wasn’t there to say goodbye, but that doesn’t matter. That’s a selfish thought. And if Pearl taught us one thing in her long, lovely life, it was to think of someone other than ourselves.