Well, I suppose it would be appropriate to dedicate this one to Dash.
I am deeply saddened to hear the news about Dash. I didn't believe what I read at first, but after reading all of the letters, it hit me and I spent a few minutes alone soaking it in. Many tears were shed for that dear dog, and I'll miss him a lot. I'm sure that to a lot of people, it seems dumb to talk about the influence of a dog, but Dash really was a big help to me in many ways, and I would like to talk about those things today.
I wanted a dog for so long. As long as I could remember, I wanted a dog. I don't think I really knew why I wanted a dog, it just seemed like something that would be cool. Whatever the reason, I wanted one. I'm sure that Mom can testify of the many pleading on my part to get one. I think that it was a good lesson for me to ask for so long, and looking back, I think that was my first thing that I really pushed for for a long time. Many things, if I'd ask and get a "no" response, I would call it quits there. I think that a dog was the first thing I really stuck with. If things are worth it, you'll wait for it, as long as it takes. I think that was the first thing that Dash taught me, and I didn't even have him yet.
I remember very well the Christmas when Mom finally said we could get a dog. It was a small box, red if I remember right, with a ribbon around it. I opened it, and was confused, because at first I didn't see anything in it. I dug around the blue (I think) tissue paper and pulled out a small stuffed dog with a collar and a leash around it. I thought that Mom was trying to be funny and that that was my supposed "dog," but below everything in the box was a green note card, that should still be somewhere in my room still. I have kept that card all of these years because it meant a lot to me. All it said was a large "YES," written right in the morning, and in the upper corner "(Spring)." It clicked, and I remember shouting, "Oh my gosh! We're getting a dog!" No one really listened too much, they paid more attention to their presents after a quick cry of excitement. I remember crying when I got that gift, and I think that that was the first time I ever cried in my life because I was happy.
I am reminded greatly of the scripture in 3 Nephi,
9 Or what man is there of you, who, if his son ask bread, will give him a stone?
10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
I know that Mom didn't want a dog, but she wanted me to be happy. Thinking back on it, I think that that was the first principle of parenting that I learned. Being a good parent means doing things to make your kids happy, which I'm sure doesn't mean that they are things that make you happy. I am sure that millions of Dads get home from work, and the last thing they want to do after a long day is be the punching bag of an army of little kids, but they do it to see the smiles and hear the laughter of their kids. I learned there that loving others means sacrificing for them, a trait that my wonderful mother shows so greatly.
I learned, too, about the importance for preparing for the future. I remember buying a book about dog training and reading it often. We looked for kennels, thought of names, where he would sleep, what he would eat, how we would walk him, all that jazz. It annoyed me at first when Mom and Dad always wanted to plan something new about getting the dog. I learned, with time, that they were all necessary things to do before he got there. But, once he finally arrived, I realized how even though we plan a lot, there are things to wing always. I guess the principle I learned there was to plan all that you can to prepare yourself, and then be ready to make lots of things up as you go.
All of these things so far I learned before we ever even had Dash, excepting the last few sentences in the last paragraph. I attribute those lessons learned to him still, because without knowing that he was coming, I wouldn't have learned those things. Now, I'll start talking about when he finally got there.
I remember the search for a dog to buy, originally looking for a Bischon Frise (I really don't care how you spell that), but the breed came to light first of a Goldendoodle, but then it was settled on a Cockapoo, a word that sounds as silly as it looks. We searched, and I remember one day, I think it was the last day of school, Mom had printed out a picture of a small Cockapoo puppy with green eyes. We had searched hard, gone and visited, and found nothing. Mom asked me if we wanted to go see him that afternoon, and I remember expressing doubt about that puppy at first. I remember that Mom got a little frustrated after working so hard to find a puppy and I didn't even want to go see it. I felt bad, and we decided to go later that afternoon. I think we went to Camp Snoopy that day for the last day of school, but all I thought about was getting the dog. We met up at a McDonalds, if I remember, and held the puppy. He didn't leave my arms after that moment. The owners spoke about how they always hid him because they didn't want to see him go. We bought him, and he became ours.
I sat in the back of the Suburban with him, with newpapers on the seats to prevent damage from accidents. He licked my face, ran around a little confused, and I remember that Nikki and Amber were jealous that I was holding him. It was there in the car, I think, that we picked out the name Dash, because before going home, we stopped off at Walmart to print off a dog tag with his name on it, "Dash Thomas," with our address and phone number. Since the Incredibles had recently come out, we decided on Dash, which quickly became, Dashel Robert Thomas. (The kid's name in the Incredibles is Dashel Robert Parr.) We made it home, and there were fireworks to celebrate summer break. He was horrified and we tried to comfort him inside, but it didn't work too well.
Dad always reminded me of the responsibility of having a dog. I listened to his words, but they went in one ear and out the other, I think. That first night, we put him in the kennel, but he whined and whined. I called it quits, Dad spent all night with him. Woops, my bad. I realized quickly that this dog thing wouldn't be too easy. I remember having thoughts about maybe giving up, that this whole "dog" things wasn't so much fun after all. I do remember getting up with him in the morning and sleeping next to him while he slept on the vent by the front door. I remember seeing him and thinking about how unreal it still felt that I had a dog, and that kept me going with him instead of giving up. I studied in that dog training book, and read a little bit about how they whined because they missed their siblings/mothers, and they needed to be around someone. We tried it out, setting up a barricade in my room, and it worked! He whined a little, but soon went to sleep. I think that there I learned that new responsibilities are hard to get used to, but with studies and a good motivation, you figure them out and you realize that they are totally worth it, because you finally have something that you want.
I loved walking Dash. I remember the days when a walk to the end of the street and back, and that would knock him out for a good 4 hours. Picking up after him on the walks wasn't too bad either, and he didn't need that much food. But, little by little, he needed longer and longer walks, he left bigger messes, and he needed more food. Those thoughts returned of, "is this whole dog thing worth it?" It was tough, I remember doing something I promised Mom I would never do: complain about my dog responsibilities. She knew that would happen. She kept pushing me and reminding me of my promises, and I did my best to keep them. I tried to walk him every day, but I wasn't perfect in that. The initial excitement of getting him started dying down, and the realization of the long time commitment of a dog became more of a reality.
Mom and Dad kept reminding me of the things I promised, and I kept all of them as best as I could. Because he grew, we put in an electric fence, and he picked up really fast on how it worked. He only got shocked two or three times and then knew what the white flags meant: stay away. He never really had problems with going to the bathroom in the house, I can remember two or three times it ever happened. We were in classes with him to learn tricks and stuff, and he caught on quick. (We stopped going to those classes, woops). He learned how to play fetch really easily, and loved doing it. And seeing him do those things brought me another kind of motivation. Growing up adds to our responsibilities, but the growing up in turn allows us to be able to do bigger and better things. Although it does get a little harder at first, as they learn more, they become more independent. And seeing those growing up progress brings us happiness.
Dash would touch the leash with his nose when he wanted a walk, move the bowls when he wanted food or water, brought his ball when he wanted to play, growled when he wanted to be petted, and scratched at the door when he wanted to go outside. As he grew, it became more of a thing like me saying, "Hey, you know the things I can do to help you out. When you need something, just ask." He got to that point, and life with Dash continued to get more and more normal, and more and more happy. That's where we all need to get eventually with our Father in Heaven. He wants us to learn all of the right things, and become as independent as we can, and also recognize that help is always there if we need it and ask for it. Growing up is tough, but the progress we make is so important. Heck, Dash even got the point when he could let himself in the garage door! That's my boy!
He was, however, a barker and a biter, something that he never got better at. We tried very hard to work with that, and he just wouldn't get better. I don't have too much more to say about that, because it doesn't take a lot of words to say that he barked and bit a lot, but that's just a good reminder that no matter how hard we try and work at it, we and all of those around us will have flaws and weaknesses that we should always help with, but also accept it as part of them sometimes.
I loved my walks with Dash, and the people I often walked with. Those walks involved great conversations that helped me personally. I remember that those walks were important times for me to be able to think about all kinds of things. I loved using those walks as ways to get away when I was invited to parties or whatever where dumb things would be happening. I'd take him on a long walk, just him and me, and I loved that. It was one those walks that I dedicated a lot of time to thinking about my own future, the things that I wanted to accomplish and the things that I wanted to have. Those walks helped me to make initial decisions that led to bigger, better ones. Those walks became very special moments for me. That was one of the things I was most looking forward to about going home. I am saddened to know that that won't be possible any more, but I will always remember those walks, be them alone or with someone else, as very happy, very peaceful moments.
I am grateful for those who have taken care of him for me whenever I haven't been able to, before the mission or during it. I hope that I have said thank you thousands of times for Dash, I have tried to make that something I do often. He taught me to be so very grateful for the things that we have. He was my miracles. I always asked for him, but never knew if I'd ever get a dog. I realize the sacrifices it caused for many, especially Mom, but I hope you know how grateful I am for every single minute that I had with him. I feel more gratitude for Dash than almost everything else in my life. He taught me to always be thankful for what we have.
I remember making up our version of "Golddigger," sustituting things that Dash did, such as steal underwear, throw up all of the time, jump up on the table to steal our food, with the chorous being, "Go ahead, Dash, go ahead, get down," which was a fun day. He got stuck in the pipe under the road once, that was a fun one, too. I remember how sneaky we tried to be, too, when we would find Dash's throw up before Mom, and we wanted to clean it up before she noticed. We resorted to some crazy things, especially Heather and I. Mom could still probably tell, but it was still fun to try and fool her.
The nice things about dogs is that they always feel like they are your friends. I remember just feeling better being around him, and I felt like we were buddies. I fought so hard for him, and liked doing things with him. He was always there when you walked home, always barking when Steel walked by, always bringing his ball up to you. I'll miss hearing him, as he sits next to us, growl until we pet him. He was a good friend.
Sorry if the letter doesn't have a good flow, I haven't revised it well and I feel kind of out of it, but hopefully I got my main points across.
I remember at the beginning of my mission having the gut feeling that I wouldn't see Dash again. I suppose I know why I felt that way now. I am quite sad about his passing, I was hoping so much to walk with him again. I am glad that he was able to be a fun thing for Eliza and Jack and other little kids, and that he passed away with Mom, Dad, and Amber. That dog meant the world to me, and he still does. I am grateful for all that I learned from him. I have only listed a few of the things that I remember of him and very few of the many memories that I have of him--there are certainly many more. The influence he had on me was one that I will remember, for because of my time with him I learned important lessons about responsibility.
I loved Dash a lot, and I am grateful for the time that I had to be with him. I'll miss him a lot, and hopefully I can use many of the things I learned from raising him as the time comes for me to start a family of my own.
Thanks for everything, Dash.