Childhood pets grow old as we grow up

“You wanna go for a walk?” “Go potty!” “Want a treat?” “No barking!”

These are phrases that every dog owner knows well and uses daily. As ridiculous as it sounds, this “baby talk” is woven into my everyday speech. My fear is that someday I won’t ever use it again.
I don’t remember the first time I met my dog, Pepper. I was five years old when the dachshund-yorkshire-terrier mutt trotted into my family. I’ve grown up giving her baths, taking long walks around the park, and apologizing to guests for her incessant barking.

Getting Pepper was, and still is, impactful on my life. At a young age, I was taught responsibility by the puppy I helped take care of. Feeding, walking, and washing my dog were added to my list of chores. I learned to be gentle with smaller, more vulnerable creatures, and how to use a strong, deep voice when she broke house rules.

We used to call her our hiking buddy. Whether it was an eight mile trek in the mountains or a short walk around the park, she was up for it. Back then, I didn’t recognize her sturdiness and resilience for such a small breed until it began to fade. As she grew older, we slowly stopped taking her on hikes because she couldn’t keep up. Now, she gets tired after a short walk around my neighborhood.

As I continue to grow and enter the prime of my life, Pepper is far past hers. It makes me sad to watch the childhood friend I have had forever fading both physically and mentally.
My dog no longer barks when someone opens the front door. Not because she has learned better, but because she cannot hear anymore. She has trouble jumping onto the couch, and the few white hairs around her face have multiplied.

Sometimes, I miss the puppy I had so long ago. The one that could keep up when I ran around the park, and who was in a playful mood every afternoon when I got home from school. However, I know that dog isn’t completely gone.

It is hard to see Pepper in her old age, but behind the white fur, I know she’s still the same dog. She still likes to nibble my fingers and sunbathe when the mid-afternoon sun shines through our window. She even remembers old tricks my sister and I taught her years ago.

I believe that one of the saddest things in life is watching a childhood friend grow old and eventually pass away. I also believe that it is worth it. Pepper has taught me responsibility and shaped many of my memories growing up. I’m scared for the day that she leaves my family, but today, I am thankful for every moment I have with my puppy.

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