Some Family Members Have Four Paws

Children with black labs

The military life is full of ups and downs, ins and outs, hellos and goodbyes, friendships that last a season and some that last a lifetime. With all of the change and the chaos, I cannot begin to say how much comfort I have found in my furry, four-legged children.

Yes, I am talking about my dogs.

When my husband and I got married, we already had two young, black labs. They were wild and crazy back then. They needed copious amounts of attention, numerous walks a day, all the treats and bones you could think of… and we adored them.

…most of the time.

Casey, our youngest lab was the epitome of a stinker. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t multiple times a week that my husband would come home to that dog being in his kennel and me crying on the couch because I had taken him on multiple walks for 30 minutes or more in which he REFUSED to go to the bathroom — only to come home and poop all over my carpet. We discovered after a few months that he preferred to stick his head in a bush to go poo because it gave him a false sense of privacy. He also loved to bark. And escape. And eat a perfectly cooked chicken breast fresh off the grill.

Casey and I began a dog training journey shortly before he turned one. It brought out all of his best characteristics 100-fold, and I am forever grateful. That training bonded us in a way no amount of cuddling or the best bones ever could. (10 Benefits of Dog Training)

Our other lab, Sarge, was a gentle giant from the beginning. He was our sweet large boy and he never gave us much issue with behavior. He was just happy to be with us. But he was also skittish as he was a rescue pup and had been quite abused prior to becoming a part of our family. Loud sounds bothered him then, and they still do now. He once was alarmed by a skateboarder riding past, slipped out of his collar, jumped into the Chattahoochee River, and proceeded to swim about halfway across. He HATES football season because he knows we will be yelling for 99.9% of the time the Cowboys are playing.

Over the years of our marriage, these two labs were a constant for me. They were my companions when my husband was gone. They welcomed home both of my babies. They let me cry all over them on days when I had no words.

My husband deployed last year and we settled into nine months apart. Shortly after he left, Casey got sick and began having multiple seizures a day. He passed away a few months later with my husband on the other side of the world. I’ve been through a lot in my life — military brat, health issues, the loss of close family members — but this was a unique kind of pain. It truly broke my heart. I loved him his whole life.

Sarge is now 13 years old. As I watch his gray hair multiply and his eyes cloud, his hips lose mobility and falling has become regular, I always am sure to treasure these moments with him. He still loves to be told he’s a sweet large boy. He still loves food. He still loves life. He still loves us.

They both made my husband and I better. They taught us responsibility and how to set boundaries. They taught us the importance of effective communication and discipline. But more than that, they taught us what unconditional love can look like. It was worth pushing through the hard times.

To my boys…

Related Article: Another military dog story