Ten days ago, we lost a family member. Our akita Nomo (who I always thought of as "My Little Brother") came to us as a pup 11 years ago, and grew into a brawling 150-lb. ball of Man's Best Friend.
The great comedian George Carlin once said that because you know you're going to outlive your pet, buying a dog was like "purchasing a small tragedy." After a week's reflection, I prefer to think of it differently. Buying a dog is like purchasing a brief pocket of unconditional love and loyalty. That was Nomo. We adults spoiled him like he was one of our children, and in return he protected the children in our family as if they were his own cubs. (Woe to the person who knocked on the front door when any of my nieces or nephews were playing in the house; Nomo's roar-like warning bark could be heard from outside. But if you were a friend or family member, he'd be happily waiting to knock you off of your feet as soon as you opened the door!)
They say that our pets don't have souls, and thus don't go to heaven. I can't and won't believe that. If there's indeed a paradise waiting for the good and just when we leave this existence, then Nomo is there waiting for me, the newest addition to the honored pack that has served as the beloved protectors of the Howard Family. Thanks for everything, Little Brother.