Our dog died a few days ago. He was hit by a car. The suddeness of it all, having a pet one minute and being gone the next, has been really difficult (but I know anyway you lose a pet is hard). It has left a hole in our hearts bigger than we can have imagined. My husband keeps iterating, he never knew an animal could leave that big of an imprint in his life. But, I knew when we picked out that little puppy just over 10 years ago, that he would become a good friend.

In 2001, Kevin and I had been married just short of a year. I was begging and begging him for a dog. We both didn't want children just yet, and I was sure a pet would help us become better parents. Kevin wasn't so convinced. He had dogs growing up, but never as an indoor pet. And so we came to an agreement, if I wanted an indoor dog, then I would have to pick out a dog to his specifications. It had to be one that would be good with children, smart, low shedding, and most of all...a hunting dog. So I did my research, and finally settled on a Vizsla. It wasn't a very common breed, so I wasn't even sure I would find a breeder in our area. But low and behold, within that week, we found an add in the paper for some puppies. We went to visit them, and I instantly fell in love with "the discount puppy." He was a little bit cheaper because of his white spot on his chest (an imperfection). His big floppy ears and oversized paws seemed disporportioned to the size of his awkwardly tall legs and lenky body. They made him irresistable.

So, in June, we brought him home. We named him Rudy, shortly because it was a hungarian name (and he's a hungarian breed), and also because his red nose resembled Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. He stuck to us like velcro, which is also common of his breed. So, pretty soon we felt comfortable letting him roam around the outdoors without a leash on. If we came inside, he wanted to come in as well. He didn't like to be outside without his people. He was glued to us like bread on butter. He was definitely a people pleaser. And pretty soon after, Kevin started working on him with hunting. They practiced out in the field after Kevin came home from work. Until Rudy began to even "point" at flies in our house. He would point at just about anything that moved. He was itching to hunt.

In fall of 2002, Rudy went on his first hunting trip. He had another dog he was shadowing, and it didn't take long before he got the hang of what he was supposed to do. The guys went on to do a few more fall hunting trips after that. But once we had children, they were fewer and farther in between. Just a couple weeks ago, Kevin's brother mentioned that maybe they should go out to Iowa this fall and take Rudy for one last joy ride, since he was getting up there in age. I guess he wouldn't get to go after all.

As soon as we began to have kids, Rudy's status became lower on the totum pole. We coddled him less and less, and brushed him aside more and more. He began peeing on furniture, perhaps because of the lack of attention. Every time we had a new child, he went through a 6 month phase or so where he'd pee on things. And soon after we were done having kids, he just peed if anything was out of the ordinary...we went on vacation or had company. Our vet said it was because he wasn't sure of the place in our family anymore (he was no longer alpha), and needed a job to do. So we told the girls to give him daily commands and treats too. Katie was very good at giving him treats. And when she headed to the laundry closet, Rudy knew just what she was up to. We had been out of treats for weeks before he died. Katie kept reminding me to get more treats at the store, but I kept forgetting.

So, that morning when a stranger pulled up and rang our doorbell to sobbingly tell us of that she accidentally hit our dog, the guilt set in. Not immediately, but as we pondered our memories of Rudy. Kevin felt bad that we had pushed him away so many times when he seemed to "get in the way." He hoped Rudy knew how much we loved him. And although things had changed at the tail end of his life, I knew he felt loved. Kevin had just taken him for a ride on the Bobcat a few days prior to his death, we had gone for a walk in the soybean field, and he had leaned into Kyra in antipation of her long strokes (they had recently become stronger pals). I know he still felt loved.

Now, as a few days have passed the sting is beginning to subside. I am able to tell his story without sobbing profusely. We are already speaking of him less, and beginning to heal. There are moments where I have to take a second glance and make sure he still isn't there because, I thought I heard the tapping of his overgrown toenails hit the kitchen floor. I also thought I saw him out of the corner of my eye run by as I was weeding, only to find it was the tall grass waving in the wind. He had paced back and forth in the yard so many times before while searching for bunnies. I have found myself still closing our bedroom door before we leave the house, because our bed is commonly where Rudy would sneak to once we were gone. He would unmake our bed and curl down into the covers, leaving a hairy imprint on Kevin's side.

Yes, he was annoying at times...jumping up on guests, begging for food, or prefering to drink out of the toilet instead of his bowl. But his positive qualities way outweighed the bad. He was an extremely affectionate dog. He never onced snapped at the kids, even when Andrew especially pulled his ears, tried to ride on his back, or put a death grip on his tail. He was energetic till the day he died, loving to chase the light of a flashlight, race down the steps to catch his ball, and spring up from his bed when he heard the word "walk."

We will miss our "Ruders" greatly. But I know time will heal. The kids already want a puppy. It's too soon. We are hoping that as time heals, the kids will think of the idea less. Although Kevin was sure we would never have another dog again, he is already softening to the idea. It breaks his heart to see Kyra so sad, and not even want to talk about him, or think about how Andrew (the true dog lover in the family)will not have a dog to grow with. But I think in reality Kevin himself will miss not having a dog. After all, Rudy wiggled his way into Kevin's heart before he even had a chance.