April 10 is National Hug Your Dog Day. Coincidentally, it is also the one-year anniversary of the death of my family’s beloved dog, Attila. The story of how we adopted Attila into our family is long, so I’ll give you a brief summary.
When I was a kid, one day my dad came home from work holding an adorable puppy with floppy ears. He said one of his colleagues found Attila and his doggie relatives on the street and took them in. We kept him in a box in my sister’s room, but he soon grew too big for it, so he claimed our backyard as his territory. My siblings and I fought over who would play catch with him. I even took him on a walk once, but it was more like he took me on a walk because I was a weak 8-year-old and he weighed almost 100 pounds.
There was always conflict over Attila’s existence in my house. My mom really didn’t want a dog. We were in the process of socializing Attila when he and our friend’s dog bit each other. After that, he couldn’t really leave our house because we didn’t want any conflict that would force us to put him down. We didn’t let any other people near him, including even our closest friends.
Keeping Attila in isolation was a hard but necessary decision. The hairs on his back would instantly rise, and he would bark at the sight and smell of unfamiliar people. But the instant one of my family members or I went to him, he would relax and become a cute little puppy who just wanted belly scratches.
My sister and I grew up. We each went to high school and became overwhelmed with Advanced Placement courses, SAT prep, after-school activities and our own problems. Even though he lived in our backyard, we didn’t really spend our free time like we used to do by playing catch with Attila or just sitting in the backyard with him. I would only really see him for a few minutes when I went to feed him or clean his water bowl. Sometimes I’d throw him some treats or a new toy, but that was all.
The day he passed away last year was just like any other day. I went outside to take him out of the garage (we put him in the garage when the gardeners came), and when I opened the door, I knew what had happened. I was so shocked. Even though he had reached the average age of a dog’s life, I never thought he would die. I felt guilty because we didn’t take the best care of him. Maybe he would’ve lived a few years longer if we had found some way to socialize him, or if I had played with him more and given him more attention.
If you have a dog, never take them for granted. Smother them with love every day because they deserve it. Dogs are wonderful companions because their unconditional love is unmatched. Your dog might be a small part of your life, but to them, you are their life. Make sure the only thing you’ll regret is not adopting your dog sooner. Give your dog a big hug, then give them another one and say it’s from me.
Contact Özge Terzioğlu at [email protected].