I’ve only experienced it one time. It, unconditional love, came in the form of a 17-pound, shaggy, fuzzy ball of fur with a wet nose and large brown eyes.
We never had pets growing up. Pets included a parakeet, maybe two, and goldfish that were won annually at the Purim carnival. Alas, they never lasted long. And we had the small turtles that were eventually banned because they carried salmonella.
I was ok with that. There was no great desire to have a dog or cat. I remember getting a bad scratch from a neighborhood cat when I was a little girl. Dogs scared me unless they were very docile. The ones that roamed our neighborhood were anything but docile.
So, I’m not quite sure why I gave in to my son’s request to get a dog when he was about 11. We first tried a Shetland Sheep Dog puppy acquired through a Sheltie rescue. Neither my son nor I, or anyone else in the family, were willing to train an active, wiggly puppy. The shelter lady made me feel horrible when we returned him after three days.
Then, Gyzmo came into our live. My hairdresser of many years told me she had a customer with a 3-year-old well-trained Cairn Terrier (think Toto but much cuter) who needed a good home. He was jealous of the customer’s active baby grandchild and was “marking” his territory all over the house.
We went to see Gyzmo and play with him. For my son, it was love at first sight. We brought him home–crate, dog dish and toys–that same night.
Though Gyzmo was my son’s dog, responsible for feeding, walking, etc., you can guess what happened. After a few weeks, especially when school begin, he became my dog.
Besides, Gyzmo literally loved the hand that fed him. That hand was mine. He was at my side morning, noon and night, especially in the kitchen, waiting for morsels to drop on the floor. For many years, we had the cleanest floors in the neighborhood! Matzo crumbs? Not a problem. He wasn’t very picky either – he ate old chicken bones, pizza, bagels, candy and even cicadas that he found on our walks.
Gyzmo was my buddy. When I was sick, he’d lay in bed with me, snuggling. If I was tired and sat down to read, he’d hop up besides me on the sofa. When I was sad, you could see he was sad. No explanation was needed; “Mommy” needed cheering up. When I talked to him, he cocked his head as if he was listening to every word. His big, brown, shiny eyes were always on me. When I came home, his body and tail wiggled and wagged with such excitement.
I never knew how much his unconditional love meant to me until he died. Towards the end, he wasn’t himself. I wasn’t smart enough to realize it and call the vet. Then, my 87-year-old father got sick and was hospitalized.
Gyzmo went to our trusted dog walker and boarder. A couple of days later, she called and said that she had rushed him to a 24-hour emergency vet hospital. By the next day, he was dead. He might have had an infection that could have been treated with antibiotics. I’ll never know. I never got to say goodbye to Gyzmo. And I sat in my office, stunned, crying for a long time. I can’t explain it, but I was more upset about this loss then my father’s hospitalization.
Many years have passed, but I still tear up when I think about Gyzmo. He loved me totally as only a pet can. I keep a photo of him in our den. His dog collar is draped across the picture frame. I think of him often. I wonder if anyone or anything will ever love me unconditionally again.