Justin and I both grew up with dogs in our home. I can’t ever remember a time in my life when I didn’t have a dog, until I went away to college. After college, Justin and I got married and shortly after we bought our house. And I was ready to get a dog. At first Justin was reluctant mostly because he knew that my dream dog was more on the big dog scale and we didn’t have a yard or room for a dog that size. Also we were both gone all day at work and our evenings and weekends were filled with social activities, weddings and happy hours, we were hardly home. We would talk about it and talk about it and it kept getting put off for when we got a bigger house/bigger yard. The end of 2008 and pretty much the entire year of 2009 were some difficult times for us as we lost several family members and loved ones and spent a lot of time at funerals reflecting on their lives. By the end of 2009 we were both ready to start fresh with a new year. I thought the perfect way to start a new year would be by getting a new dog! So I got online and researched the different shelters and listings for dogs. On a Saturday in mid January we were hosting a party at our house, being the planners that we are we had all our shopping and preparation for the party done in advance so we had the day free before we needed to get ready for the party. I saw it as a perfect day to go visit the shelters! Knowing that we had a party that night there was no way we could bring home a dog that day so I told Justin we will just go look… In all of our discussions about what kind of dog we wanted we both agreed that we didn’t want a small toy dog like a yorkie, chihuahua, pomeranian, etc.. but we also didn’t have a yard with room for a bigger dog like a lab, or retriever, so we needed to find something that was in between, mid sized. With that in mind, we mapped out the shelters and decided to start at the most northern one and work our way south back towards our house, which meant we started off at the animal shelter at Camp Pendelton. After getting through security, getting directions and driving several miles into the base we found the shelter. They had a few dogs in cages and none of them really appealed to us, then we went outside where they had all the smaller dogs in a fenced in yard. It was basically all chihuahua mixes with other small toy dogs and then a black mid sized dog named Chappo. He stuck out in the group since he was bigger and he had a cone around his head since he had just been neutered. We went into the yard and all the dogs except Chappo were yapping away at us. Which made us notice him even more since we didn’t want a dog that is constantly yapping. We sat down on a bench and Chappo immediately came over and put his front paws up on my knees as if he were asking if he could jump in my lap. Of course I let him up and he went back and forth between both our laps as we scratched his ears and petted him. We sat there for a while and we both talked about how he was a pretty cool dog, a good size, but this was the first shelter and pretty much the first dog that we were considering so we asked the marine who was running the shelter a few questions and decided to keep looking, because we couldn’t even bring him home that night anyway. We went on our way to other shelters and looked at all kinds of dogs. We found ourselves comparing the other possible dogs we saw with Chappo. After the 4th shelter it was time to go home and get ready for the party.
The next morning we went to church and we were still talking about Chappo, we went to one more shelter by our house and still didn’t find a dog we liked better than Chappo. So we called Camp Pendelton to make sure they were open on Sunday and to make sure that Chappo was still there and drove back to visit him again. This time the marine cleared the yard and it was only us with Chappo and we were in love. So we started filling out the paperwork and Chappo rode home with us on my lap with his head out the window. As we were leaving the base we noticed a sign indicating a section of Camp Pendelton that was called Chappo, which must be how he got his name. We really didn’t know anything about his past, or what kind of dog he was and they said he was about 3 or 4 years old. One thing we did know and really liked was he was already potty trained! After a stop at Petco for a leash, collar, bed and dog food we took him home and showed him around his new digs!
The next day we took him to the vet to get him checked out and make sure he was healthy and up to date on his shots, etc…Justin wasn’t too wild about the name Chappo, so I told him to come up with a name. As a boy one of Justin’s favorite shows was Magnum P.I. where there were two doberman pinchers named Zeus and Apollo. So he decided his name would be Apollo. At first, because of Justin’s allergies, we did not allow him up on the couch or even in our bedroom. After a period of time we realized that was ridiculous because we found ourselves spending all our time on the floor so we could pet him and play with him.
Even though I was the one who was adamant and really pushing to get a dog, Apollo really gravitated towards Justin and he was clearly Apollo’s favorite, the feeling was mutual!
In the couple of years that followed Apollo was our companion during our infertility struggles. He would lay on the couch or in bed with me when I was recovering from the surgeries I had. He would snuggle with me when I was frustrated that we were not getting pregnant or sad after our failed IUI’s. Actually Apollo was always happiest in someone’s lap. Most of the time you wouldn’t last a half a second after you sat down before he would jump in your lap. We always joked that he was our 30 lb lap dog.
He wasn’t perfect, he had some territorial issues and we found out he didn’t like situations with a lot of noise and activity, so we kept him sheltered from those situations. He didn’t like strangers coming to our front door and that was one thing I didn’t mind since I felt safe having him protect us. And he occasionally got into things that he shouldn’t have…
We spoiled him. We took him everywhere with us. We went on lots of long walks around our neighborhood and along the beach.
His favorite things to do was play catch at the park and lay in the sun and sunbathe.
When I was taking my online photography class, he was my main subject for my homework assignments.
When we finally did get pregnant with Jacob, we had some concerns with how Apollo would handle having a child in the house, since he doesn’t like a lot of excitement or loud noises. Along with the childbirthing classes they offered another session called “Baby proofing your dog” it was taught by a dog trainer. We took the class and learned a lot of valuable things about how to handle dogs & babies and how to read dog’s behavior and and proper ways for dogs and kids to coexist in a household. I remember thinking that every parent should take this class regardless if they have a dog at home or not, since kids are typically fascinated with dogs whenever they see them in public, and approaching a dog the wrong way or even the wrong dog can end up pretty badly. Anyway, armed with that information we were confident that we could make it work with Apollo.
After Jacob was born, Apollo was curious about all the new smells and sounds that were coming from this little human that had taken over our house, but he was really good with it all.
When Jacob started eating solids and most of his food ended up on the floor, it was a win/win situation for both Apollo and I since he is food crazy and snatched up the food before it even had a chance to hit the floor and I never had to clean up the floor! As Jake got older and started walking around with a cup of Cheerios or a cracker, etc… Apollo would follow him very closely and clean up all the crumbs and cheerios that fell on the floor. Apollo would also jump in the stroller after we got home from a walk and clean up any crumbs that Jake may have left. You could always find him at Jake’s side patiently waiting for him to drop something. He was my little vacuum!
They were buddies in the backseat of the car and during downtime.
Then Jake learned how to throw and we put him in charge of throwing Apollo’s toys for him to fetch, and Justin taught him how to hold on to the toys and play tug a war with Apollo. Jake would help Apollo eat his meals, one kibble at a time and often both helped me “sort” laundry piles.
Apollo somewhat tolerated us dressing him up to be a part of our crazy family photos
From the title of this post and the stroll down memory lane, you can probably see where this is going…Unfortunately, due to some recent events that happened and Apollo’s old age, we had to make an extremely difficult decision to say goodbye to him. After 5 years of his presence in our lives, it has left a hole in our hearts and our home. It has taken me 2 weeks to even be able to publish this post since the simple thought of him just rips my heart into pieces. It has been really, really, really hard trying to adjust to this new “normal.” I knew he was a big part of our lives but until he was gone, I didn’t realize how much of my everyday tasks, instincts, and actions revolved around the dog. Like how every time I start to walk up the stairs, I pause for a second to wait for Apollo to run up ahead of me. Being home now, he would follow me around the house and keep me company every where I went. I find myself still cracking open the screen door when I open the slider so Apollo can go outside and lay in the sun.
After our meals I still expect him to race over to his bowl and wait for me to drop in the leftovers, I still find myself looking at where the water bowl used to be to see if he needs more water. The first time we BBQed dinner, it was hard not to see him sitting under the counter where the cutting board is waiting for Justin to toss him a piece of steak. The other day I heard the ice machine making more ice and for a second I thought it was the sound of Apollo’s collar and tags hitting the hardwood floor when he would lay down. After I put Jake down for his nap and come out of his room Apollo would be waiting for me and we would both look at each other like, yay, we get a little bit of downtime! And when he would hear Jake wake up, he would go lay down by his door and wait for me to open it to get him.
It has been hard even driving through our neighborhood, since we have canvased every path, trail and route on our walks. When Jacob was born, Justin took on the responsibility of taking him on his morning walk, since it was so early in the morning Justin often let Apollo free in the field to chase the birds and rabbits. Jacob and I would do the late afternoon/evening walks and he loved to help hold the leash.
Now that Jacob doesn’t like riding in the stroller and Apollo is not here we haven’t been taking walks and I am realizing how much I miss those walks. They were just as much for me/us as they were for Apollo, the fresh air, exercise and chance to be together and talk without the distraction of cell phones, TV and chores to do was so refreshing and could do wonders for our mood if we were having a hard day.
When we were out and about and we would say to Jacob it was time to go home, he would shout DOGGIE! Because he knew Apollo would be waiting for us. Even just driving the route home, Jacob knows where we are going and when we get close to home he starts saying doggie, doggie, doggie! About two days after we said goodbye, Jacob started realizing that Apollo was gone. He would run over to where his bowls used to be and start looking around for him. He started asking about him, and when he would say DOGGIE, I would say through my tears that the doggie went bye bye. So now every time we are driving and get close to home he says doggie bye bye, which breaks my heart even more! Apollo was such a good companion and Jake loved having him on the floor with him.
Apollo made me feel safe by being my ears for me. He would always bark if someone came to the door, I would pick up on cues from him if he heard something that I didn’t. I always knew when Justin was home since he would race to the garage door and paw and whine until Justin came inside.
I know it will get easier with time. We knew this would be a very difficult transition to make, but it blows my mind how lonely it is at home without him, yes, even with a 2 year old running around, just his presence and knowing that he was here was comforting to me.
We love you Apollo and miss you very much, especially your snuggles!