This letter from Melissa to Dexi was written on Wednesday, July 10, 2013Dexi

Dear Dexi,

It’s been almost eight months since we lost you. After you died, I saw you everywhere in the house. Every shadow was your black body, every noise was the clicking of your paws on the hardwood floor. After I while I stopped looking for you, but I’m still sometimes stunned you’re not there.

I miss you, Dexi. You were such a good girl. I remember seeing you for the first time 12 years ago, in the shelter kennel. You were surrounded by dogs who were barking and jumping, trying to get the attention of the people walking by. You were quiet, regal, composed. You looked at us with your sad brown eyes and your floppy black ears. And we just knew we belonged to you.

I have so many memories of you, pictures of your happy and healthy days. You, running off leash after a tennis ball in Nichols Park, so joyful to be alive and free. You sharing your big dog bed with the cats, all three of you licking and grooming each other. You, under the covers with me, warm against the Chicago winter night. You, gentle with my sons, enduring well-intentioned petting and endless attempts to pull your tail. You, jumping with delight at a toy dangled above you.

And I remember the end of your life, too. You stopped getting up when I came home. You didn't come upstairs. You tolerated your special food, designed to minimize damage to your kidneys. You grew thin. Your eye bled, and then your nose. The smear of blood on the living room wall, where you bumped your head because you couldn’t see. The drops of blood on the pavement as I took you to the vet four days before you died. Your skeletal frame in my arms, as we waited to be seen by the specialist. Your cries when they brought you into the room where we waited, to say goodbye. The blanket you died on.

I don’t believe in God or heaven (though I still cry at the kindness of the offer, from the vet who euthanized you, to pray with us for our loss). Instead, I think you’re everywhere now, and a part of everything. I’ve tried to see you, for instance, in other dogs who just need someone to give them a chance.

For many months after you died, we didn’t talk about getting another dog. Your absence was too heavy and your departure too recent. Time passed, and it became easier to imagine that we might fill the void you left behind. We brought home a new dog last week, Dexi. We named her Sushi. Like you, she’s a black mutt who needed a home. She will never replace you—you’re too hard an act to follow—but we need to open our hearts again. The pain of losing you was terrible. And it hasn’t gone away. But your love and companionship made it worth every tear. If she is even half the dog you were, it will be worth it again.

I think you had a good life. I hope you agree. You were loved.