I think everyone, at some point in their life, needs to experience what it’s like to have a good, loving pet. I got the best pet I will ever have when I was 9 years old— a dachshund named Slinky. I remember the day I picked him out. I had to hold every single puppy in the litter, but something was special about this one, small black and tan one. Honestly, I didn’t pick Slinky; he picked me. I remember the night my dad brought Slinky home after he was finally big enough to leave his mom. I went running out in the driveway to meet my dad, but he didn’t have anything in his hands. I asked where he was and he said, ‘He’s in here,’ and that’s when I saw Slinky’s tiny puppy head peak out from inside my dad’s coat pocket. I was completely beside myself. We brought him inside, and that was it, he was family.

I had Slinky for 12 years, and he was honestly my best friend. Everywhere I went, Slinky went. If I was ever sad, I would sit and hold him and pet his silky ears and everything would automatically be better.

I watched him grow from a pup to an overweight long-dog, I watched him age and go from black and tan to black and grey, and I loved him all the while.

One day, when I was home from college for a weekend, Slinky just went to sleep in my arms. It was devastating, and I don’t think I have ever really gotten over that. The entire family hurt when he left us, and we still miss him each day.

This time of year is especially hard, because I miss having him during the holidays. I know it’s hard during this time of year to be without the ones we love, but there is a bright side. This time of year is about giving thanks and acknowledging the things we do have and the people we have in our lives. So, one thing that helps lift my spirits during this time of year is being reminded that I shouldn’t be sad about what I lost, but to be thankful for what I had. Instead of being sad that our loved ones are not with us, we should be thankful for the memories we were able to make with them while they were here. See, without Slinky, I never would have known what it was like to have and love that one, irreplaceable pet. I’m sure some of you are missing someone this time of year, whether it be a person or a pet, and I know how you feel. So I just wanted to remind you that, although it is hard to be without them around the holidays, you still have memories of them, and they would want you to dwell on those happy memories during this time of year instead. Now when I look out my mom’s kitchen window and see Slinky’s resting place in the backyard, I just smile and think to myself, ‘Don’t be sad, he’s still very much alive—in my memories.’

Kayla Beaty is a staff writer for the Times-Journal. Her column runs on Thursdays.

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