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    Posted December 25, 2013 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    2013: Your greatest moment

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    One Last Christmas For My Favorite Christmas Present


    When I was four, I went missing at a family friend’s farm. My parents found me in the dog house sleeping next to the old farm dog.


    I was always a boy who wanted a dog. But my parents (really my mother) had a “no pets” policy in the house. Pets would cost money, makes messes, and require maintenance. I remember my first true pet, a hermit crab. That’s as far as they would allow. My seven year-old self cleverly named him “Hermie.”


    But Hermie couldn’t fill the gap of a dog. Wanting a dog seems to be woven into the fabric of a child. Dogs are known as man’s best friend for a reason. Any time my family would be at a house with a dog, most of my time would be spent admiring and roughhousing with their pet.


    On a cold night in December of 2000, I was with my dad and sister watching the Florida election results. My mom walked in the front door with something tightly bundled in a wad of blankets. She revealed a cute puppy of a terrier mix.


    I was eight years old when I finally became a boy with a dog.


    I don’t think I could accurately describe my joy. She was six months old and had been picked up by animal control after wandering the streets of Kansas City. The shelter had a number drawing for everyone that wanted her. My mom’s friend got the number and gave it to us.


    We named her Millie, short for Millennium, in honor of the year we got her. She was feeble and weak at first but soon grew into an energetic and crazy dog.


    My memories of Millie could fill a book. She brought us laughter, play, and a little love. She was a constant through many rough times in my life. It’s not like I relied on her, but she was always there.


    If anyone ever described Millie, her vigor would be the first quality. Often she would simply “snap” and run circles around the house until she wore herself out. I’ve never seen an animal or person with more abundant energy. She was that way so long that for a decade people continued to ask us if she was a puppy.


    I noticed her getting old a year ago. I used to walk her for miles, but now she can only go about a half mile before needing a rest. Millie began to have seizures at night and started walking around confused. We took her to the vet for the first time in 13 years. She got so sickly that we almost put her down this Thanksgiving, but her medicine somewhat brought her back to normal. She’s still nearing the end of her life, and I am so thankful for my dog.


    Every year she would sit under the Christmas tree after the presents were taken out. I guess she liked laying on the little tree skirt. It was an overt reminder that she was a Christmas present. My favorite one.

    I didn’t plan on Millie being with us this year. For me, Millie has always been associated with Christmas and the ushering in of a new year. I was prepared to let her go this holiday season, but it turns out I got one last gift—to have Millie for one more Christmas.


    Update : On February 9, her breathing became rapid and shallow. The vet said her lungs were filled with fluid and she only had a couple days left, at best. We chose to relieve her of her suffering while the vet was still there.


    (The 2nd picture is me and my stuffed dog I named "Peach." He was my surrogate dog until Millie.)

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