Oh, Coley Bo-Boley, we miss you so. It’s just not the same around here when we open the door and you don’t come charging out. Or when there’s a loud noise and you don’t start barking. Or when there’s no noise at all and you don’t start barking. Or when your eyes aren’t boring through me  as though you can see into my soul and then start barking.

I even maybe a tiny bit miss your constant whining, though it is awfully quiet without it. In fact, it’s too quiet. It’s amazing how much noise you made. You yawned loudly and then snapped your jaws together. You laid down with a big thump. You whined about going outside or going up the stairs or to get into the car or to have your ball thrown or just for no discernible reason.

You sat oddly, with your tailbone curled under you and your peter sticking out. I’ll never forget what one of the girls at a doggie daycare used to say about you, “He sits like people!”

It was impossible to pet you without getting on the floor or leaning over, because the second you were petted, you rolled over with a thud onto your back.

You scarfed your food and you slopped water all over the house. You clawed up the back of my bumper. You killed the plants and grass. You chewed the top off our Japanese maple. You chewed up kids’ toys and stole food out of their hands. You were, at times, a pain in the ass.

But you also loved me and Jay and Gabe and Julia. You loved all our friends and family. You loved to play with kids. You loved other dogs (except for that little Chihuahua that freaked you out).  You were never, ever mean to anyone.

You were never mad at me if I didn’t pay enough attention to you when the kids were little or if you didn’t get a walk that day. You still loved me the next day even if I yelled at you the night before. Sometimes I think maybe I didn’t deserve you, that in all my stress and anger at times you would have been better off with another family. But we always persevered, and you never gave up on me.

I always said you were Jay’s dog, that you loved him more, but I really don’t know how I would have gotten by without you all those late nights Jay worked or when I was home alone when he was gone. Even if you weren’t allowed on the couch any more or in our bed, it was nice to just have you THERE.

You watched the kids for me in the backyard while I tried to make dinner alone. You did whatever was asked of you, you let the kids crawl all over you when they were babies. Looking through pictures I see that you were never far away from them.  Even though I regret there are few, if any, formal pictures of you with the kids (I could kick myself–why did I never think to do that?) you were often in the picture anyway because of your proximity to them.

We got you when you were one, from a lab rescue. They didn’t know your full back story, just that you and another dog were in someone’s farm or yard for a year before they brought you in. You had no idea how to be in a house when we first brought you home, you used to counter surf, and the first time I took you to my parents’ house, you peed on their fake Christmas tree and tree skirt my mom made by hand. I never did tell her because I was afraid I’d never be able to bring you over again.

Because you were “raised in a barn” you were always a bit off, strange, and quirky. You didn’t like to be outside by yourself for long, and much preferred to be inside where your people were. But we really couldn’t have asked for a better dog. You probably could have had a better mom, but I appreciate you sticking by me anyway.

I’ll always remember you by all the hair painted into the walls and engrained in the carpet, the matted-down carpet going up the steps on the left-hand side, and the claw marks down the bumper of the van. I’ll think of you whenever I see a brown patch of grass, a tennis ball, or a half-eaten tomato out of the garden.

I wish we had more time to say goodbye. But there’s never enough time, is there? It was weird, when I was leaving the vet’s office, I looked down at your purple leash and saw that it said “Dexter” on it. I knew his name was there but had forgotten it was there, you know? It was the second time I’d pulled out of that god damn vet’s office after putting our dog down and there it was staring me in the face—Dexter. Like a reminder that you’ll have pals in heaven, a reminder that eventually it won’t hurt so bad, that I’ve done this before and I’ll do it again, maybe even a reminder that that is a damn good leash.

Death is a weird, shitty thing about life I think. I’m awfully lucky I haven’t had to think about it much. It has been a bad six months or so for dogs of people we know. I take some comfort that you’re in doggie heaven with all your old pals, and that there will be some new friends up there to make too.

I know right now you’re barking loudly, shrilly, incessantly for your ball, and there will be someone to throw it to you for all of eternity.  Maybe during water breaks, you’ll stop and look down on us with pride and think, “You know, I raised a pretty good family.”