Rule book for bone hide and seek:

1.You must hide the bone.
2. Kenzie will not wait if you disappear around the corner
3. You will only have 20 seconds, thirty tops if a squirrel from outside enters her view
4. If you do not find a difficult hiding place, you will be required to participate again
5. You may be expected to repeat with a following bone
6. A half attempt will not be taken lightly and will immediately be enforced by the stamping of paws and notice me grunts
7. And most importantly never forget what it was like to play this game

I have a story but I’m having trouble writing it.

This is one of those times where I have too many things to say, too many words arguing against each other. I guess it’s better than being silent. I’m filled with memories of her; they topple me to the ground, forcing me to surrender to the sadness.

I never could have imagined that I would end up feeling this way, a gaping wound in my chest that leaks daily, each drop falling to the floor, reminding me what to miss.

If you had asked me in fifth grade how I felt about dogs I would have told you this: I don’t like them. I’m scared.
If you had asked my brother how he felt about dogs at 8 he would have told you this: My life will be complete once a dog sleeps in my bed every night.
Even my heart cracks slightly at his words—I get why my parents broke.

The next part of the story comes in two parts. Eventually my parents crumbled under the relentless pleas of the little boy, succumbing to getting a Wired-hair Fox Terrier. Her name was Pepper. We kept her for three short weeks until my mom gave her to another family, and my brother’s dream deflated before he even turned ten. I had won, my mission accomplished. You see, although I had warmed to Pepper, she’d never taken my heart and squandered my fear. That didn’t happen until the second part, until her…until Kenzie.

Kenzie was decided upon six months later, in my absence, over a piece of chocolate birthday cake. I came back from a trip with my grandparents and it was happening. My brother’s dream was going to live again.

I remember the first night we had Kenzie. She was fluffy and blonde and quite possibly the cutest thing I had ever seen. But she terrified me. I found myself sitting on the kitchen counter, staring at her in distress. Here was this little being, one I didn’t want, but inadvertently felt for. I felt bad that she wasn’t with her family in Idaho, that she wasn’t with her mom. She slept in my parents room that night, in a cage, my father’s hand on top, welcoming her home, promising her love. It was all she ever wanted.

Kenzie’s and my relationship progressed slowly, much like spring turns to summer or summer to fall. It was gradual, but natural, and in three months my butt was no longer glued to the counter, my heart seized by something else other than fear.

Kenzie will always be the dog that taught me how to love. She will always be my best friend. She will always be my dog. I will never know how to love anybody like I loved her. And I’m okay with that. I have that particular love guarded in a very special place in my heart, impenetrable and never fading.

There’s so many things I could tell you about her: The bone game she always insisted on playing, the way her ears never failed to hear the refrigerator door open, or the way a tear dropping to the floor was as loud as a gunshot to her. I could go on and on, instead I’ll keep those things so close to my heart it nearly blackens.

I wrote Above before Kenzie had passed on. It was an idea that comforted me: to see her again one day. I like to believe that’s where she is…somewhere she never has to ask for a bone, a tennis ball is always a throw away, but most importantly, somewhere that love is. Because that’s what this dog deserves, all the love in the world.

Right before Kenzie went to sleep for good, my mom put the phone to her ear, letting me say goodbye. I didn’t know how. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t…so I just cried…helpless and unbelieving. In some ways I guess this is my eulogy for her, my letter that I’d hope she’d hold in her mouth, never knowing what it says, but the words sinking into her tongue. I’m not saying goodbye. That’s something I decided I wouldn’t do. Instead, I’m just remembering how much I love her. The tears on my keyboard, my mascara smudging my face, are all the proof of what she’s left behind.

I love you Kenzie. Above will always be for you. The dog that taught me everything about love and loss, and never left me feeling alone in either.

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