For nearly our entire dating relationship, I begged Chad for a puppy. It was one of those silly things that we joked about–what would we get? what would we name it? who would it love more? So basically the same conversations you have about babies when you don’t want a Stage 5 status. We knew that we wanted a smaller breed, and the name “Roxy” existed for a long time before there was an actual dog.
So when Chad proposed, it went down something like, “Will you marry me?” “Yes! So now can we get a dog?!” Maybe not exactly, but almost. And within a couple of weeks, we were at the Tulsa Humane Society looking at dogs.
With our non-traditional schedules at that time, it was the middle of a weekday, so we–quite literally–had our pick of the litter. We looked through every cage, and obviously I tried to convince Chad that we needed every single one of them. But one of the volunteers told us that they had just gotten a couple of puppies, and we just had to see them. Um yea we did!
We walked around the corner to a side room, and there were two little puppies jumping all over one another. Again, I was instantly thinking of how I could convince Chad that we needed both, but we were both drawn to this sweet little girl that kept jumping at our legs. I knew instantly that this little brown puppy was ours.
Xena. Her names was Xena. Not quite a warrior princess, she was a 6-week-old dachshund-pug mix that had been dumped on the doorstep of the agency. All she wanted to do was lick everything in sight, and all I wanted to do was cuddle her for the rest of my life.
And that was it. We filled out the paperwork. We paid the adoption fee. And we walked out the doors and told our new puppy, “By the way, your name is Roxy.”
No relationship is perfect, and ours is no exception. I love my husband very much, and we really are very happy. But when you get engaged at 24, and try to plan a wedding with small incomes and conflicting schedules, there’s a lot of stress. It may sounds extreme, but I feel like Roxy saved our engagement. There were times that we both questioned if we were doing the right thing, but we both had thoughts like, “If we break up, who would get Roxy?” I can laugh about it now, but those were real thoughts in those moments. (Coincidentally, I also fell more in love with Chad watching his sweetness with our puppy.)
A lot of you know about our first year of marriage and how I spent most of that time in treatment for uterine cancer. On the weekends, I was so sick from treatment. All I did was lay on the couch and watch TV or curl up in our bed and sleep. Roxy never left my side. She followed me around our house, and when I would lay on my side, she would curl right into my belly.
She was our sidekick. It was just accepted that if the Buchanans were in attendance, that included Roxy. She was begging for turkey at Thanksgiving, hiding from fireworks on 4th of July, eating popcorn with my parents, watching movies at Boulevard Drive-In, watching the Royals at Bark in the Park, sunbathing on the McCoy’s patio. Our parents referred to her as their grand dog. She was always there.
Over the years, she had a lot of nicknames. Peanut, Squirt, Ruffy, most recently Ra Ra from her beloved Jack Attack. One of the most frequently used was Nurse Roxy. She could always sense when something was wrong–when you were sad, or sick, or hurt–and she always knew how to respond with her love and attention.
When we found out that we would be adopting a baby and our house got turned upside down with cribs, and bouncers, and swings, and boxes, she was always there. I worried that she would feel neglected when we had a baby or that she would not be very welcoming to anyone disrupting her spoiled only child situation. But she insisted on waking Jack up every morning, running to him when he cried, and of course closely monitoring his meals.
Sometimes God gives you moments that are special to prepare your heart for sadness. We had a beautiful start to our Saturday. Chad and I both ran the Rock the Parkway Half Marathon. Chad’s first Half Marathon! (And he didn’t hate me at the end!) After the race, we came home, got cleaned up, and we had Jack’s 2nd birthday party. So much fun with so many people we love! After the party, we came home, and Chad and I collapsed on the couch.
My mom was in town for Jack’s party, and she was upstairs reading while we were relaxing. A little before 5:00, my mom came downstairs and said she thought something might be wrong with Roxy. She had thrown up on the rug and was acting lethargic. We rushed upstairs, and our little puppy was laying on the rug in the living room, looking so sad. We knelt down to pet her and try to determine what was wrong. I thought maybe she had eaten something that upset her stomach. (We try to keep an eye on Jack, but he’s sneaky and loves to feed his puppy.) We tried to give her something for her stomach, and our girl that never turns down a treat, refused the offer. I put her water bowl in front of her , and she drank a bunch of water and seemed to perk up. When her little brother got up from his nap and sat in his highchair to eat dinner, she was wagging her tail right below his chair. We had no reason not to assume everything was now fine, so we decided to head out on our free grandma babysitting date night. But we agreed not to go too far away, just in case.
We were finished with our meal and sat chatting at our restaurant table when my phone rang. My mom. She said that Roxy was having seizures, so we jumped in the car and came home. We loaded our little baby into the car and drove her to the pet emergency room.
Neither Chad nor I could have been prepared for what we would hear from that doctor. We both assumed she had eaten something she wasn’t supposed to, which caused this reaction. We never assumed that we would hear that our little Roxy, our first baby, had a brain tumor.
I know a lot of you have lost your sweet furry friends, so I will spare you the turmoil that ensued in that next 3 hours as we were forced to make the most impossible decisions about our Roxy. And honestly, I can’t even write about it. We love her so much, and all that mattered was her comfort and her happiness. So we walked out of that building with empty arms.
I don’t know that I’ve ever cried this much. Yes, we have experienced loss and heartache, but this is hitting harder than anything I’ve ever felt. Grief is very strange. There are moments where I’m smiling thinking about her sweet little face, or the look in her eye when she was about to take off running for you to chase her, or the time that she bit Chad’s nipple when he was laying in bed after a shower. And in the very next second, I can’t even breathe through my tears.
Jack is too little to understand anything that has happened, but when he wanders around the living room with his little questioning arms outstretched saying “Ra Ra?” I feel like my throat is on fire. He loves her so much, and I actually hope his memory is short.
There are routines that you don’t even realize you have until you don’t. When I get out of the shower in the morning, immediately looking to the right into our bedroom to see if she’s laying on the bed. She’s not. Saying “Roxy, can you get in your house?” before walking out the door. Habits are hard to break.
I know it will get easier, but right now I feel so broken. One of my good friends shared a story with me a few weeks ago about a dog that helped guide a man through the NYC Marathon with a note that said “we don’t deserve dogs.” How true that statement is. I haven’t done anything even half deserving of the love I got from my sweet Roxy. But I sure am glad that God chose me to be her mama for the last (almost) 13 years.