When I met Ditka as a puppy, I was 24-years-old. That day, I knew he was special – but, I had no idea of the impact his life would have on mine.
Ditka “The Bear” Aragon was a tremendously brave dog who dealt with health issues most of his life, due to circumstances a sweet, little animal could never control. He deserved so much more than the cards he was dealt. When his first owners saw him as “imperfect”, I was given the opportunity to bring him home. I can still see his little face as he ran towards me the day I picked him up. He jumped in my arms and we adored each other instantly. He was my first true love and I gave him everything I could.
He was tough on people throughout the years, as he was very particular about whom he liked and allowed to be near him – except for me. He was honestly the most devoted dog I ever had…always by my side…always in a protective stance. Even as he aged and arthritis became an enemy, he continued to follow me from room to room. He was my shadow and I can say that I still feel him with me – which makes my aching heart feel so full, even today.
Ditka loved so many things when he was with us – sour cream & onion chips, tortillas, and making a bed out of any dirty clothes that happened to be lying around (no matter how many fancy dog beds I bought). Sometimes, he’d appease me though and sleep with us at night in my arms. He was the alpha of our little pack and made sure his brothers, Lex and Hank, knew it. We joked in our house that he was the “Mayor of Bummer City” because you couldn’t have too much fun or be too loud without him barking and reminding you to “keep it down”. It made us laugh every time we gathered together, as he was always in the center of the room keeping us in line (we wouldn’t have had it any other way). At some point, he ultimately approved of everyone that we allowed into our lives – which was a learning lesson for me. You don’t just give your love to anyone.
Even though he had a rough exterior, our family was lucky enough to hold him when he was sick, snuggle with him when he was happy, and kiss him every single day. He was our bear and he knew it – never holding back, but always giving us the best of him.
It’s been almost two weeks since Ditka left us, and I’m still trying to adjust to a new reality without him. We had become such a strong unit, as he was both a witness and my champion. When I took him home all those years ago, I never once thought about what it would be like to watch him age. During these last few months though, his strength and energy declined. He needed me in a way he never had before, and I know it was hard for him. I honestly can’t remember when it was exactly that he couldn’t jump on the couch anymore…or when he stopped being able to go up the stairs. I think when I first started carrying him around, it wasn’t a necessity – but then it did eventually become one. I learned how to open doors with my elbow, so that I could keep him in one arm and everything else in the other…I would wake up seconds before he did if he needed something in the middle of the night…I knew when he’d leave a room. It’s amazing to me how much we adapted together, so that he could keep enjoying life as much as possible – until the day I finally looked at him and allowed myself to see that he wanted more. It was time for him to be the strong-willed, free spirit he once was.
I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to Dr. Kim, and everyone at Caring Pathways, for giving me a priceless gift…the ability to help my Ditka-Bear move on with dignity and compassion. I wish I could put into words how much it meant to me that he didn’t have to leave this life in pain, but instead, was surrounded by his family who loved him so very much – his mom, dad, and furry brothers. He was there for us in so many ways and he had held on for so long, waiting for us to be ready. We had to do right by him. We had to finally be the brave ones.
Ditka will always be more to me than a dog. He had an old soul – one that was meant to explore beyond his short years with all of us. I know you understand that, which is why I’m tremendously grateful to Carrying Pathways for helping us say goodbye.
Rest in peace my precious Bear. I will love you forever.
Forever and a day…