Updated: May 28
What can I say, and where do I even begin?! In 2001-02, people who are close to me know I lost someone super special in my life, my aunt, and Godmother; aunt Laura. But to me, and those around me know, I, for the longest time, called her: “Buddy”. It is always hard to fill a void in one’s heart that is missing, and irreplaceable as they are in heaven for forever more, never returning to be able to hang out, spend time, and do all the things we once loved to do. Believe me when I tell you, months after my aunt passed, I’d still find myself crying, trying to understand ultimately why she was pulled from my life. Her diagnosis too, of lung cancer, came a week after we went, and spent a full week in San Antonio, Texas. One of the best, complete weeks of my life, from start to finish!
When we returned home from our trip, what felt to me and my adolescent self, like the very next week we came back, although I am sure it wasn’t in that specific time frame ultimately, Buddy, as I said, fell ill to lung cancer. She fought her fight for as long as she could, but God took her home to be with Him after she fought it as long as she could. Buddy didn’t have to fight any longer, or be sad about being unable to do all the amazing things she once did in her life for her, and our family. I still think about Buddy all the time, and especially the months after this all occurred, as sensitive to these types of things as my heart and I have towards subjects of this matter, there was nothing that could ever help me overcome the loss of Buddy.
After months of being sad, and helpless, my parents had an idea of getting me and our family a dog. From my mom, to my younger brother, and I, we were all terrified of dogs! Loud barks, or growling sounds from behind fences, all three of us certainly wanted no part of any dogs. My dad was always cool, calm, and collected with them. So once we started going to different kennels, and shelters to look for the right dog, he would always lead the way. Reminding all three of us that dogs have the ability to sense fear. Sometimes though, we just couldn’t help ourselves, we were absolutely “terrier fied!!!!”, (see what I did there?).
After weeks of searching through kennels, talking to certain dog experts, and reading books about different breeds, we finally stumbled to the Dublin SPCA. There, towards the front of the shelter from what I can remember, was a shy puppy, three months old, brown, with a patch of white on his chest; a Labrador, German Shepherd mixed dog named Hogan. Hogan was new to the shelter, as he was transferred from another local shelter nearby, and was being rescued and healed at this location. The handler closest to Hogan gave us all the rundown of him, and his backstory. How he was abused, and thrown over the fence at his previous location, and how he ultimately became as he was due to being scared for his life, timid, and skittish of everyone who got close to him. I remember specifically, as my dad was talking to the handler, how he was always looking down, and licking up ants as they marched through the cement at the shelter. It was one thing for my dad to get a good feel of him, but as I was standing there listening to my dad talk to the handler about him, and watching his mannerisms, I too came to the realization, he was perfect!!!
We didn’t even have to wait, and come back to pick him up! He already received all his shots, and was ready for adoption. We called my mom, and brother into the shelter, as they were waiting in the car, so they could view and observe and get a feel for Hogan as well. We all came to the conclusion he was the one for us! We took him home that day, and on the car ride home, he hardly made a peep, and sound. Shivering, and feeling traumatized from past events in his early puppy life, he had already been through scary moments to where I know it was hard for him to figure out who he could trust, I am sure. I could feel his body shaking in my arms on our car ride home, like a man in the snow wearing a tank top. He was certainly frightened, but we were hoping that he would soon gain our trust. We went to the local Petco to get all of his basic essentials that he would need like his food, water dish, and some toys. We put him in the cart, and let him ride in it as if he was was a baby in a stroller. Suddenly, a passing dog with their owner barked at him, and he finally gave us signs of life as he perked up, and aggressively barked back at the dog. It was both good, and startling to see at the time, us all still trying to erase our fear of dogs all together. From then on, throughout his life we found that as friendly as he was, the one thing that made him tick was other dogs. Other than that, he was as friendly as could be!
When one rescues a dog from a shelter, they will obviously already have a name that the shelter has been calling them, but once in new ownership, we were free to change his name, and give him something that fit his new “culture,” and Black family I’ll say. I recall us going on this website looking up different African names, and only requiring one other criteria; it had to be a name that started with the letter “A”. In our immediate family we all have an "A" somewhere in our name, so it was only right for us to change Hogan into something that started with an "A" as well. My dad’s middle name is Anthony, my mom’s first name is Angela, my older brother’s first name is Abram, my middle name is Antoine, and my little brother’s middle name is Alexander.
We went through several choices for names, and finally came to the choice “Amir”, which means “Prince” in this particular African language. Oh boy, how throughout his life did that name, along with the meaning of it, play a role in our household! As my dad loves to joke even to this day, Amir configured his place in the pecking order in our family. My dad, myself, AMIR, then my little brother, finally my mom. In his eyes that was the chain of command, and he didn’t have any sorts of issues maintaining his place in that order either!
Amir, as I said, was our family dog, but he was ultimately MY DOG, AND MY RESPONSIBILITY. He taught me how to care for, love with a passion, and manage for someone other than myself to the fullest. When he needed to go for a walk, it was I who took him, or if he needed to be let out in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, it was I who got out of my sleep, and made sure he could be let outside, and go. Once I had my first job, and had my own earned money, it was also I who went to the store, and purchased his food; “Ol Roy” dog food brand for him. From throwing his slimy ball back and forth for hours, to staying by his side all night long every 4th of July due to his fear of fireworks, and every other moment in between, Amir was one of a kind! There is, and will never be another dog like him.
As was the case with Buddy, I often think about him all the times, and hours we spent together. Through personification, we had so many conversations, and moments that last me a lifetime! Sadly, when I was away at Hampton University, a few months away from graduating, and earning my college degree, I received that phone call no one, especially a long standing pet owner wants to receive. After fifteen years spent with our family, and me almost back home from Hampton, so we could be together daily again, right as I was waking up to prepare for my college classes for the day, I remember receiving a strange series of text messages from my mom, and dad back home. Looking at the time that it was back in California compared to where I was three hours ahead in Virginia, I definitely remember feeling weird, as if something was off for my parents to be asking me the set of questions they were asking me: like if I had a big test that day, or any big assignments due this week. All things very peculiar for that time of morning. Once I told them nothing big was going on, they called my phone instantly, and I remember my dad saying something like “there is no easy way to break this news to you, but me and your mother feel you deserve to know now, as opposed to us hiding the news from you. Our family dog, Amir, has passed away. I remember sitting up in my dorm bed, after dad uttered the news to me, just in a complete shock! My parent’s gave their condolences to me, saying it was better to hear it now, instead of them hiding it, and ultimately I think they were right to do so….
Once again, I was heartbroken, and had another close “member” of our family gone! The memory, impact, and “legacy” Amir has left on our family will last forever! He left us in 2017, and I still wake up, as does the rest of my family, with memories, or reflections of him, and his antics as if he were still around. There will never be another companion, “noble steed”, or dog, like “Amirdadog” (our nickname for him). Even as I reread and wrap this post up, I miss him so much! He too will always be in my heart as I go through my life. From my first memory of him at the Dublin kennel, to the last memory of him passing, and beyond!
Like Rafiki from the Lion King told Simba about where his father Mufasa is, and always will be: “…Look harder. You see, he lives in you.” That's where he always will be. In loving memory. Amir "Amirdadog" Eggleston.