Your entrance into our life was probably an accident of Fate. Mom, desperate to fill the hole in our lives that Charlie (the canine love of her life who, just like the Charlie in All Dogs Go to Heaven, was a German Shepherd) had left when he died, had met with several failed attempts to find a replacement. It was pure chance that she and Dad happened to see your mother, tits down to the ground, on a walk with our neighbor.
"That's a bitch who just had puppies," Dad said. (Probably not his exact words, but close enough.) And he was right. And as it happened, those puppies were close to being weaned and ready to be adopted. We would never have chosen a chocolate lab, much less a purebred one with papers, if not for this.
Your mother's owner told us to pick the one with the softest head — for quality? — and that was you. We sat around petting you for a while amidst your siblings and then brought you home, where you were a sleepy puppy for the first few weeks, except for the times when you were busy dragging our other dog, Clifford (named for the dog of the books, though neither big nor red) around by his collar.
We picked your name for Luke Skywalker, because I was newly a Star Wars fan at the time. It seemed to fit you, better than the other options that would reasonably come up for a dog of your color.
You were not the smartest of best friends, nor even the most loyal (I'm thinking here of the time you ran away and jumped into another family's car, as if you were going to join them on their vacation). But you were the best to snuggle with on a day home sick from school.
And you were always the first to know when a package of cookies was being opened somewhere in the house.
Mom fed you pieces of chocolate "to help him keep his color" on lazy Saturday mornings. Dad would always have to be the one to walk you, because the minute you got on the leash you would fly forward with all your weight, eager to be out and piss on every bush you could raise your leg to. My sisters and brother and I would joke about how when you died we would make an area rug out of your coat, and fight over who would get your soft soft ears to make into mittens.
Sometimes you were frustrating. You liked to bark at passersby who came within 100 feet of the house. You loved to steal food from the dinner table. You hated having to be outside when we had company over. And once you even peed on Dad's foot when we didn't let you out, even though you'd been standing by the door for five whole minutes. (That last was pretty funny.) Eventually he forgave you.
As you grew older, and your body started growing lumps and sores, and your legs started to not work right anymore, we kept wondering, Is it time yet? But you kept being so aware, and you kept hounding after those cookies. Your head didn't seem to know yet that your body was done with, and we couldn't bear to let you go. So we bore with you, carrying you in and out of the house, lifting you up so you could perform basic bodily functions, grumbling to ourselves how annoying you were, but still not able to give you up.
But today, we all had to admit to ourselves that it was finally time to let you go. Sixteen years we had you — more than half my life. The house will be empty to return to without you.
I hope there are a lot of cookies for you in the big Dog Park on the other side of the ocean. Sleep well, old man.