This past weekend, my family and I had to say goodbye to our beloved four-legged family member, Dale. Dale, even though I am biased, was the most-lovable yellow lab. He had been in my life since I was 7 years old, around the same time basketball began getting serious for me. I truly don’t remember what life was like before we adopted my furry brother, but I know it started when he came into our lives.
I remember the day my Dad took my brother, Sean, and I to pick Dale up like it was yesterday. We were so excited. What kid doesn’t want a dog? Someone to run around with, play fetch with, and eat your vegetables when your parents aren’t looking! Sorry Mom, but what could be better than that?! When we came home with him, I think everyone knew that our lives were about to change for the better. I immediately called my best friend, Clare, and told her we got a dog. She didn’t believe me and had her Dad drive her over to my house to see if I was lying. To her surprise, I wasn’t!
It didn’t take long for Dale to become the fourth Welch sibling. My parents would refer to him as our “brother” and he was nothing short of it. One of my favorite childhood memories is when, at the end of the school day, my Dad would bring Dale to pick us up. I’ll never forget the feeling of indescribable happiness seeing him sitting on the sidewalk waiting for us. I would always immediately sprint to give him the biggest hug (and of course, my Dad got one too!). He was the happiest dog with the best smile and biggest brown eyes.
I could write pages upon pages of all the wonderful times and laughs Dale brought into my family’s life. But I think this quote sums up the impact Dale has left on us: “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” The love a dog gives is incredible. Dogs unconditionally love us every single day they’re on this earth. They’re the best listeners and most loyal companions. For 14 years, Dale never failed at any of those things. He loved our family and we loved him. More importantly, he taught us how to unselfishly love.
I’m going to miss watching him sit on our front porch on a summer’s day, smelling the wind and enjoying the sunshine. I’m going to miss taking him for walks at our lake house and playing fetch with him in the lake. I’m going to miss feeding him my broccoli under the table while my Mom wasn’t looking, though she always knew I was doing it. I’m going to miss hugging him and telling him how much I love him.
The last time I saw Dale was New Year’s Day when I left home to come back to Ireland for the second half of the Victory Scholar program. I didn’t know this would be our final goodbye which made this past weekend extremely hard. But thanks to technology, my Mom was able to FaceTime me so that I could say goodbye to my brother. I told Dale that I loved him one more time, and even though dogs aren’t able to talk, he blinked and I know that was his way of saying he loved me, too.
I know we’ll meet again someday. The 14 years we were fortunate enough to have Dale in our lives were 14 incredible ones. I hope he knows just how much he meant to us. I know we will never forget him.
“A dog will teach you unconditional love. If you can have that in your life, things won’t be too bad.”