If you think that she was just a dog, then I wonder what you think of us. The sobs still wrack our bodies and endless tears still sear our cheeks each day.
It’s the moment we open our eyes to suddenly remember that – No, we don’t need to get out of bed and bring her outside. It’s the moment we come home to be greeted by scathing silence. It’s the moment that we realize our patterns, our routines, our favorite things to do each day no longer exist.
In those moments, in those very frequent moments, the air leaves our lungs and we are forced to breathe through saltwater as it fills our eyes and exhales down our cheeks once again.
She was not just a dog. She is the reason we became a family. She is the reason our love grew so easily and so openly. We chose to bring her into our home and she is the reason we built such a strong foundation together.
She was not just a dog just like I am not just a woman. I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, a niece, a granddaughter, a friend, a confidante, a companion.
She was so many things to so many people.
She was Chica, who lived at the gas station and ate fried chicken scraps from the trash bins.
She was Lina Gasolina, Lina the Ballerina, Lina Bean, Lina Boo, Lina Marina.
She was a snuggle buddy, a lazy island girl, a smiley face. She was the color of sand in golden sunlight, and often came back inside with a sand-covered nose and smiling eyes.
She loved the wind in her face while cruising on a boat, while hanging out the window of a car, or while sitting sandwiched between us on our scooter, smiling at everyone along the way.
She was joy, and love, and excitement, and loyalty. She didn’t like tears and gave us the “that’s enough, now, toughen up” face when it was needed. She always sought out the sunshine, never understood other dogs, and hated the water with every fiber of her being – unless she was safely on a dock or in a boat on top of it.
She was also a fighter, a tough little girl who never showed signs of pain until it was far too late. She didn’t tell us that infections were running rampant, that something was destroying her ability to fight – though not her spirit. She never showed discomfort although her entire body was being ravaged inside. She never told us because she just wanted love.
She was family, she was a best friend, she was a socializer, and an impeccable judge of character. She was the reason we all smiled brighter because her pure joy emanated out into the world.
She was love embodied.
She made us laugh and smile and play, but now we sit…awash with grief that eats at our hearts and brings memories to mind only to remind us we can make no more.
She brought us joy and wonder, showing us that slowing down and lifting our faces into the sun is meditative and medicinal. She taught us to breathe deeply, taking in all the scented air around us until our lungs nearly burst with pleasure.
She begged us to just love, in all things we did…just love. That was all that was important to her: that we were with her and that she felt loved.
We tried so hard to follow her example, but of course there were times that we failed her, forgetting what was truly important and losing focus entirely.
Yet she continued to just love us endlessly.
She was not just a dog because she reminded everyone she met that we all need love, and love is all that matters.
She was not just a dog because she showed us what unconditional love looks like.
It looks like excitement every single time your love walks through the door. Whether your love has been gone five minutes or five weeks, you feel unfiltered joy at being together again.
Unconditional love looks like a tilted face listening to your voice, hoping and trying to understand you while showing you complete and honest devotion.
It looks like a grateful smile as you walk into the sunshine together, side by side with nothing to do but to simply be together.
It’s a deeply contented sigh at the end of another perfect day. The day may not have seemed perfect to you. But if it was spent together with shared love, then it deserves a deep sigh as you lay your heads side by side at the end of that perfectly imperfect day.
Unconditional love is not some far-fetched ideal. It is the most important aspect of this life. She was not just a dog because she reminded us every single day to maintain that focus: to just love. It’s all that matters in the end.
She was not just a dog. She was – and always will be – pure, unconditional love.
Lina came into our lives on November 19, 2012. She left us on May 28, 2016.
We thought we would have so much more time with her, but she filled each of those precious days with joy. She will forever be our sunshine.