When people ask me if I have siblings, I usually respond by saying either “one” or “two.” Sometimes I just mention Mecaria, my six-year-older sister who lives in Asheville, but most times I mention both Mecaria and Callie. Callie was part of the family for eleven or so years. She was a chubby pit-bull mutt we adopted when I was in fifth grade. Callie’s fur was a golden orangish hue and matches her hazel eyes. Callie was our home’s protector, often scaring away anyone and everyone. But she also was the most lovable dog I have ever met; she just enjoys fronting when she was behind the front door of our home. Callie was also my best friend and my sister. She always has been and always be. Callie said goodbye to us all on March 27, and I lost one of my best friends and one of my sisters.
For me, “family” means something different than just blood relatives. My parents, sister and I have a somewhat odd relationship with our extended family and it’s because of this I see family beyond blood. Rather, I see family in those I trust and love. That’s why, to me, Callie was not just my family, but she is also my sister.
This is in the same way Juliet, our Doberman from my young childhood, was family. The same way Crunchy, my dwarf rabbit, was family. I say “was” because both of them have passed, yet they always will be family. They will always be part of my pack.
While some find this view of “pets” or non-human animals as family odd or wrong, I want to refute those beliefs. I think it is vital we rethink what family means; must it only be blood? Is it not the family of your best friend from childhood? Just because I am related to a cousin by blood doesn’t mean they are family to me. My family consists of the people I love and the people who love me. My family consists of the people who I trust and those that make me feel safe and happy.
I love Callie and I believe she loved me. Callie made me feel safe and I did everything I could to make Callie feel safe. I trusted Callie just as she trusted me to take care of her. She brought me so much joy, and I hope with all my heart I did the same for her.
Every morning, I was awoken by Callie busting into my room to make sure I was there. Every morning Callie came up to my bed to check on me, to make sure I had slept, to make sure I was safe and to make sure her brother was there with her. When I moved to Wake Forest, she continued to come into my chldhood room every morning. No matter if I wasn’t there, she had to check.
March 28 was the first day in a long time that Callie wouldn’t be coming into my room in Winston to see if I was there. It was the first day my parents didn’t have her following them around begging for food. The 28th was the first day her chair that she sits in and sleeps will sit empty. And the 28th was the first day without Callie.
We knew this day was coming; we knew that we would lose her. Other than being a little chubby from my parents feeding her scraps, Callie was a very strong and healthy dog most of her life.
Until her last day she was strong, but her health deteriorated substantially. She started having some growths form on her chest in the past year and the doctors knew she had developed some form of cancer. Since then, she had two surgeries to slow down the cancer to keep her out of pain or risk of it. However, in the last week of March the cancer had spread, and she had gotten very weak.
Callie was my parents’ third child, and the 28th was the first day that it was only my parents in the home. As I walked to work, I called my mom to check in. Both she and my dad are truly heartbroken. My mom told me that waking up without her for the first time was beyond painful. As I write this, I know the next time I come home I won’t see my full family. I won’t see Callie waiting at the door shaking her butt in excitement. It’s something I don’t want to think about because losing family is something that hurts beyond words.