I am writing this post 24 hours after the passing of "Mr. Sprinkles." For 17.25 years, Sprinkles was our family dog, a Bichon. He came home with us when he was 8 weeks old in 1999.
Here's some background on how I felt about getting a small fluffy house dog.
In 1998, we rescued a dog from the local animal shelter and named him "Teddy Bear." He lived outside in a very nice dog pen.
The problem was that Teddy Bear was a runner. One time he got loose and ran and never returned home. I went looking for him and found him about 6 miles away. He was with two little kids at their house. He looked happy and they looked happy, so I kept driving.
As a kid in Chicago, I had two dogs that we kept in my parents' home for a few months each time. My mother and father tried to handle them, but they were not dog people; my two brothers and I weren't really dog lovers, either. Before Sprinkles, I never had a dog for more than 6 months.
Back to the story of Sprinkles.
My daughter Karia wanted a small fluffy house dog. My wife Karla agreed, but I was against it. I was done with trying to have a pet after Teddy Bear ran away. But as any good daddy does, I gave in to my daughter's wish for a dog. I made it clear I would have nothing to do at all with this new dog.
Karla and Karia did research and decided on a Bichon. I have a friend that raised the breed, and they placed an order for one in the next litter. Once Sprinkles was born, they went by to visit him until he was ready to come home.
I was so dead-set against Sprinkles that when I drove them to visit him, I wouldn't get out of the car. I was being stubborn and childish about having a small fluffy house dog. (I am now embarrassed by my actions in 1999.)
We picked Sprinkles up in August 1999 and brought him home. I wouldn't pet him or acknowledge him. He was my daughter's and wife's dog and they would be fully responsible for him. I was still upset my dog Teddy Bear had run away and they had chuckled about it. I was having a daddy "pity party."
Well, a few months had gone by since Sprinkles arrived, and I was holding firm to ignoring him. Then one day when was nobody was looking, I petted him and he gave me a look I never will forget. I keep secretly petting him and feeding him snacks for the next few months.
At the time, Sprinkles was getting bigger and was learning how to jump. One evening I was laying on the couch by myself, and he jumped on the couch and sat himself on my head. Then he laid in front of me and snuggled. I was hooked, but I wasn't ready to admit it. I still acted like I was not into Sprinkles.
Finally, I could no longer hide how attached I had become to Sprinkles. We became inseparable. Karla trained him, but I was the one that let him do anything. Karia lost interest, so I had my way in with him for good.
I took him everywhere with me. He would go to the office with me and roam our building. Everyone knew Sprinkles at our company. I would take him for rides in my old convertible.
I grew up in the 1960s, so I loved the TV show "Lassie." Sprinkles became my Lassie.
He knew when I didn't feel well, and he would just lay at my feet and not move until he knew I was getting better. I begin to learn and appreciate the power of a pet.
Sprinkles was at his best as I healed over the last 17 years from anxiety, panic attacks, and incidents that would trigger post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
I was always amazed over the years that Sprinkles could feel when my anxiety level was up. He would just jump in the chair with me and not move. His energy would reduce my anxiety. I often told Karla how astounded I was that Sprinkles could feel what was going on in our lives and act accordingly.
Over the 17.25 years Sprinkles was in my life, he gave more to me than I gave him. He taught me so much about unconditional love, patience, calmness, happiness, and that we didn't need a lot to be happy. I learned that humans can communicate with animals. He was one of my best friends.
The last year of his life was tougher on me than it was on him. I had trouble accepting that he was going blind and deaf, that he had exceeded a Bichon's average lifespan, and that he was now old. Eventually, he was 100-percent blind and deaf in addition to other health problems.
Karla is a retired hospice nurse. She did a fabulous job caring for Sprinkles the last year of his life. I did the easy part. I just carried him around and let him share my recliner in the evening.
I often thought that someday someone might have to care for me this way as an elderly person. When I got frustrated because he couldn't do what he used to, I would quickly think that someday I might be in his shoes. I hope someone will be patient with me.
A few days ago, he could no longer walk and would cry out in pain. Karla and I knew the time had come to let him go. We couldn't be selfish.
I learned so much from the little fluffy dog that, in 1999, I didn't want to have anything to do with. We can learn so much from our pets. Never underestimate their power and the love they bring into our lives.
Enjoy some pictures of Sprinkles. Rest in peace, Sprinkles, and thanks for giving me so much.