My dog, Rigby, saved my life. I don’t mean this in a literal, “Lassie” sort of way (“What’s that, girl? Heather fell down a well?”), but I can honestly say that if Rigby never came into my life I don’t know how I would have survived these last five years.
My husband, Mike, gave me Rigby as a Valentine’s Day gift back in 2005, and she quickly imprinted on me. Suddenly, I had a shadow. When I sat at my desk, reclined on the couch, or went to bed, Rigby was right there beside me, snuggled up as close as puppily possible. Mike quickly came to terms with the fact he was the #2 human in our home, and made due with the snuggles Rigby gave him when I was out of the house.
A couple years later I became pregnant with our first child, Madeline, and we were deliriously excited. Unfortunately, my water broke at nineteen weeks, and I was put on strict bed rest at home. Rigby, seeming to sense that something was wrong, became even more of my shadow than before. She snuggled up against me, lavished me with puppy kisses, and made this sad and scary time a little more manageable.
At twenty-five weeks I was put on bed rest in the hospital, and my shadow had to stay back at home. I missed Rigby terribly, and came to realize just how much easier she made this whole experience. Hoping to cheer me up, Mike and my mom snuggled Rigby into the hospital in a backpack one day, and I got to enjoy a quick ten minutes of puppy kisses and cuddles.
Soon Madeline was born, and after an extended stay in the NICU, she came home to live with us. Rigby immediately fell in love with her (downgrading Mike to human #3), and it seemed like our tough times were behind us. Devastatingly, Madeline passed away from a respiratory infection at seventeen months, and our world was thrown upside down.
The night Madeline passed away I returned from the hospital to find that – without our beautiful daughter – our home felt so horribly empty. I laid in bed, despondent, and cried. Suddenly, little paws tramped across the room. As she had when I was on bed rest, Rigby sensed that I needed extra love and snuggled up next to me. When I squeezed her close to me as hard as I could, she never once objected. When I cried into her fur, she never got up and shook off the wetness. And when I refused to leave the bed for hours on end, Rigby stayed right there, unwillingly to leave me even to eat or drink. When I finally left the bed to try to rejoin the world, she jumped off the bed and went with me.
Recently I miscarried a pregnancy, and once again Rigby gave me some extra loving. Even today, seven years after she first came into my life, she is still there for me in times of trouble.
Rigby may bark too much, she may have stinky breath from time to time, and she may drive me nuts licking her paws, but I couldn’t care less. Looking back at my darkest days, I can say that she really did save my life, and that is a pretty extraordinary thing to be able to say about a six pound ball of fluff.