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Goodbye Dylan

Goodbye Dylan

A few weeks ago my son came home and told me that his Dad's dog Dylan had passed away. My ex husband and I have been divorced almost ten years and we haven't had any contact since Alex graduated in 2009 but this news made me very sad. 

Once upon a time Dylan was my dog too.

We had recently lost our dog Mickey to a sudden illness and the kids had taken it hard.  Mickey had been a rescue dog and when my ex husband Bill suggested getting the kids a puppy I was a little hesitant because I had no experience house breaking a dog.  Bill reassured me that it would be fine and he knew someone who knew someone who had just had a litter of yellow labs. I remember the day we went to pick him out.  We stood in a pen with about ten adorable little yellow balls of fur running around our feet as if to say "Pick me, pick me!'  I wanted to take them all home.  Their mother was a sweet loving dog with a good temperament.  Their father was strong and energetic. You could tell this was going to be a special dog. The puppies were still too young to leave their mother so we  would go back in a few weeks to pick him up but we first had to figure out which one would be the right fit for our family. We knew we wanted a boy.  I can't say I remember exactly what made our boy stand out.  He was active but not too active. He was adorable but they all were. We all just kind of migrated towards the same dog.

We named him Dylan. People always assumed it was after the musician but it wasn't.  Our youngest son Alex was crazy about a book at the time called "Dylan's Day Out" by Peter Catalanotto. The Dylan in the book is a Dalmatian who escapes the house and goes on a series of wacky adventures.  Alex loved this book and we read it over and over again.  It was easy for everyone to agree that it was obvious what we should name him.

My worries about housebreaking and having a puppy tear up the house were mostly unfounded.  Like every puppy he was not perfect but he was sweet and we all grew to love him rather quickly. He grew like a weed and was incredibly active.  The kids all pitched in helping to take care of him. If you know anything about Labs you know that they are the sweetest most even tempered dogs ever.  Dylan was no exception.   I love this picture of him with Brittany.   He actually did steal her homework.  She asked me to take the picture so she could prove it to her teacher.

 Unfortunately, four or five years down the road Bill and I found ourselves in an unraveling marriage.  It was hard on the kids each in their own way. For a few months right before we separated for good, Bill was pretty much living in the basement and I was upstairs with the kids.  I used to say that Alex wore out the stairs going up and down between us.  It broke my heart.  Divorce is an ugly thing. You take a life that is a whole, the sum of all it's different parts and you start dividing it up bit by bit.  You take that chair.  I'll keep this picture.  We had a lot of animosity at the time so the process of splitting things down the middle was that much more difficult.  One of the things that Bill insisted was that he take the dog. I believe his exact words were "I'm going to be alone.  I won't have my children with me anymore.  You aren't keeping my dog too. "  At the time I thought it was a pretty crappy thing to do, take his children's dog away from them during a very difficult time.  A lot of people around me thought it was pretty crappy too and encouraged me to fight him on it but the more I considered it I kind of understood how he felt. He was right.  I had the kids.  I couldn't complain about the dog.

Alex took it the hardest not having his pet anymore.  I got him a cat but it wasn't the same.  He missed Dylan.  Eventually we added two new dogs to our household and he loved them a lot but for him it was never quite the same.  Thankfully he did see his dad often and always came back telling me "Dylan did this" or "Dylan did that."  He also told me how much the dog meant to his dad.  He told me how they were inseparable.  He told me that when his dad cried tears of loneliness the dog would lick them off his face. He told me how his grandma (Bill's mother) who claimed to not care for dogs would sneak him scraps of food so often that Bill had to put Dylan on a diet.  He told me these things and I realized that I had made the right decison in letting him take the dog.  Either of us could have fed and cared for the dog but Bill needed that dog because, in the aftermath of what happened to us, Dylan helped him heal.

I saw Dylan several years ago when Bill came to pick up Alex for the weekend.  We wanted to see if he would play with our new dog Duke, a lab/weimeraner mix.  When Bill got Dylan out of the car he ran to me like it had been a day since he had seen me instead of years.  Clearly dogs never forget love. He was so happy to see me.  We put him in the back yard to see if he would run around and play with Duke.  Poor Dylan just stood at the gate looking at Bill pleading with his eyes to "Get me away from this lunatic."  To say that Duke was a hyper maniac when he was a puppy would be the understatement of the year. That dog ate six remote controls before he was one.

Over the years Alex kept me posted on Dylan's antics. He would show me pictures or tell me stories and while it had been years since I'd seen him, hearing about how he was doing always made me smile.  This last year his health had really declined so when I found out he had passed it wasn't suprising but it was sad. I guess over the years I have softened because my heart went out to my children's father as I tried to imagine the great emptiness he must be feeling.

When the children were young they loved a movie called "All Dogs Go to Heaven."  It's about a murdered mutt who returns to earth to do a good deed so he can gain entrance in to heaven.  It's a cute little movie and I haven't thought of it in years.  Not until recently.  I hope dog heaven has lots of wide open spaces for running and fetching, a lake for swimming and catching "stick fish,"  an endless supply of doggy bones and all the homework a dog could eat. 

Rest well sweet Dylan….you earned it buddy.

Son in Progress

Son in Progress

This is my son Alex when he was a toddler. Look how cute he was.  Everyone in the family unanimously agrees that he was the cutest baby in history until my grandson came along. Here is a picture of him now.  I still think he’s adorable but I’m his mother so that shouldn't surprise anyone.  His was not an easy childhood.  Getting him raised was a challenge. When he was eight years old he was diagnosed with severe attention deficit disorder and thus began a ten year roller coaster ride trying to get him through school, through adolescence and ready for life in the real world.  I used to pray that when we came out on the other side we would still be speaking. I really worried about that. 
I used to keep a picture of us together on my dresser.  He was about four or five years old. We were playing in my Mom’s pool.  I was floating around on a tube and he was sitting on top of me.  We looked happy.  I kept it out as a reminder of a time when I knew he loved me and more importantly he liked me.  I feel confident that during his growing up my son never stopped loving me as his mother but I’m fairly confident that there were plenty of times that we didn’t like each other too much.  One of the ways he struggled was with impulse control and one day when I have his permission I will tell some of his stories. I can tell you though that his least favorite thing to do was write.  I often used this to my advantage when he had to be punished.  I still have his essays on “The Dangers of Smoking” and “Why going to McDonald’s on your bike without permission is a bad idea.”   I think if I really looked I could find “Why children should not befriend homeless men” and “Yelling at your friend when he is hurt is not nice.”  You get the picture.

It wasn't always rough.  No one in my life has made me laugh harder than he has. He is a good sport.  He often gets picked on for his somewhat lazy grooming or the silly things he does and he always takes it in stride.   He is smart as a whip.  He is the kid who would not do any homework all year and yet get a perfect score on his final exam. He passed advanced on almost all of his SOL's yet he was constantly on the verge of failing.  He drove his teachers crazy.  When I'm late coming home from work he calls me to find out where I am. He doesn't like leaving me home alone.  He worries about me.  If I ask him to do something for me he'll do it…if he remembers…which is not often.

This weekend I had a party at my house and a good friend of mine was there.  She hadn’t seen him in a while.  She commented to me that he is looking and acting more and more like his dad.  An observation I had made many times myself.  Imagine how hard it was to parent a child who is the mini me of a man you couldn’t stay married to. It’s been hard.  I do see so much of his father in him.  His dad is not a terrible guy.  We just couldn't keep it together and unfortunately many of the things he did to drive a wedge between us I sometimes see in my son.  I once expressed my frustration to my mother that sometimes it’s like I’ve had no influence on my son at all.  All of my hours at this doctor and that, all the driving from one counselor to another trying to find someone to help this kid.  All the conferences, child study meetings,  principal’s hearings , court dates, helping with school work, bailing him out of one problem after another, all the late nights and tears and prayers and he turns out just like his dad. His dad who never went to a single conference or doctor’s appointment in ten years.  It just didn’t seem fair.  My wise mother advised patience.  She reminded me that he only has half his father’s genes.  I am in there somewhere waiting to come out.  She reminded me that a mother’s influence is felt over a life time.

So Saturday evening we were talking and Alex told me that he is going to put his hair in to dreadlocks soon.  He has been talking about doing this for a few years now but he hasn’t done it so I usually say “Yeah, yeah ok” and don’t take him quite seriously.  This time was different.  He laid out his plan.  He has been researching it.  He knows what he has to do to form them and maintain them.  He made the comment “I am going to have to use this special shampoo for the rest of my life.”  Uh excuse me…what did he just say?  The rest of his life?!!? There is not enough punctuation on the keyboard to express my shock over this comment. He said “Yeah Mom, I’m making a commitment to them.”  Ok, a commitment is good, but to your hair?   So I then said “Well you know 15 years from now you’ll be going to parent teacher conferences like that” thinking this would maybe cause him to think twice.  Well dang if he didn’t shut me down.  He said “It’s just hair Mom.  It’s just freaking hair, if someone wants to judge me for that that’s their problem.”   

I am going to go call my mother and tell her she was right.

I am in there after all.