On February 14, 1884, Teddy Roosevelt lost his mother to typhoid and his wife to kidney disease after she gave birth to their only child. He wrote in his diary:
“The light has gone out of my life.”
On September 26, 2019, I lost my best friend to diabetes, infection and an enlarged liver. His name was Mader. I loved him more than I ever thought possible. I don’t know what I’m going to do without him.
I adopted Mader, took him, really, from my aunt eight or nine years ago. Before then he was just my cousin’s crazy dog who would jump through a hula-hoop for treats. But they wanted a cat, so Mader came home with me. He slept in my bed that first night, and every night after, cuddled between my legs.
He never had any toys at my aunt’s house so I bought him a duck. It was soft and squeaky. Mader barked at me and jumped around until I gave it to him. Then he tore out its throat and spit the squeaker on the floor, and looked at me — smiling and wagging his tail. He loved all his ducks, the hundreds I got him and the hundreds he ripped apart.
We walked miles together, sometimes ran the last stretch. I’d pick up the pace at the top of the hill leading to my house. “Wanna run?” I’d ask. He’d smile and take off, getting so far ahead so fast I’d let go of the leash so he could really open it up. When I caught up, Mader would be waiting on the porch, out of breath, tail a blur.
On clear nights, we sat outside in my backyard. I’d pull up a chair and stare at the stars. Mader would take his time peeing on the fence to make sure all the dogs knew whose house it was. Then he’d jump into my lap and lay his head on my arm.
He was a little Napoleon sometimes. When I took him to meet other dogs, he ignored them. Playdates became opportunities to expand his empire into other backyards.
Mader bit my neighbors a few times, but I think they probably deserved it. Every friend I ever brought over was a new source for compliments and pets. The night he met my girlfriend, Mader curled up next to her like they’d been friends for years.
When I was at my lowest, when the world seemed too heavy and I thought there was no way out, Mader was there. He gave me kisses when I cried. He barked at me when I couldn’t get out of bed. He snuggled me so I wouldn’t be alone.
I held him at the end. I kissed him and I hugged him and told him how much I loved him, how much he was loved. He closed his eyes and laid his head down while I pet him.
And then he was gone.
And the light went out of my life.