She got the call while we were out Christmas shopping. It was the some of the worst news she had ever received: while staying at an animal boarding house, her little four-pound Yorkie, Mico, was attacked by a much bigger dog and was killed.

Absolutely devastating. Unbelievable. So mercilessly tragic.

It was heartbreaking for me and I had only been with the little critter for a couple months. My wife had lived with, taken care of, and nurtured the adorable little guy for eight years. Needless to say, it was crushing.

The whole thing makes me wonder why anyone would ever get a dog in the first place. And for a while I didn’t get it. Dogs stink and are annoying and loud and you have to PICK UP THEIR POOP. I mean, are we really that wealthy of a society with so much free time that we can spend a large chunk of it picking up fecal matter?

What’s more, many dogs rip up shoes and furniture or bite people indiscriminately. All that combined with the heartache you feel when they die, it’s a real mystery why would anyone take that kind of thing on intentionally.

But when I married my wife, I knew I was also adopting a dog too, so I had to get used to the idea. As it turns out, he was pretty awesome.

He thought he was a towering Tyrannosaurus Rex but he fit in a bike basket
Mico thought he was a towering Tyrannosaurus Rex but he really just fit in a bike basket

Mico was a harmless little yapping, ewok-looking thing who was convinced he was more like a 90-ton, roaring Tyrannosaurus Rex. He protected my wife from countless aggressors (at least in his mind) who no doubt would have killed her if it weren’t for his fierce growl and scary two-centimeter incisors. He even “saved my life” countless times from other dogs while I was out walking him.

And even more important, he had been my wife’s comfort for years when she needed companionship. He helped her through some really tough times and lived long enough to see his mama find a man who could love her as unconditionally as he did.

It took some adjusting to owning a dog for the first time, but it was fun. It was hilarious to watch how excited he would get before a meal, spinning around seventeen times and running into furniture. And at eight years old, my wife and I summarily disproved the adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Within a couple days we taught Mico how to jump on command, which was a source of endless entertainment.

And he brought joy to everyone who saw him if even for a brief moment in passing. I don’t know how many “Aww”s or “how adorable”s I got in the couple months I had to walk him around.

The best part about having a dog, though, was his curling up between my wife and me as we laid down to watch a movie. In those peaceful times, there was an undeniable sense of family in which he was an integral part (despite the fact that he couldn’t stop licking the blankets or farting in our faces).

Why would anyone ever get a dog? Because they’re fun and funny and because they teach you things as you’re teaching them. But most importantly because the unconditional love they bring is worth all the effort and frustration and the picking up of poops. Through this whole process, I’ve learned that the same reason why it’s so difficult to say goodbye is the same reason why you want them in the first place: love.

Of course, the love of a pet is not divine love. Dogs are not humans and are not quite deserving of the kind of love we offer fellow humans, but they are real, living extensions of their owners and their special kind of unconditional love is unlike anything else on Earth.

For Mico, I hope he’s licking and jumping all over the place in puppy dog heaven right now. We’re going to miss you, little guy.

Mico Memorial