Part of the family - Jason A. Smith

It’s strange to think about what we take for granted.

Certainly, nothing is guaranteed in this world. Even when we know a change is coming, when it actually gets here, it can sometimes take us by surprise.

I’ve been faced with this reality quite a bit in recent months, as in the case with discussions of my old house being torn down, and then being sold shortly thereafter.

The changes just keep coming, it seems. My family and I have, once again, reached the end of an era.

I learned over the weekend that my parents made the difficult decision to put their 19-year-old dog, Billie, to sleep. We knew she didn’t have long, and that she wasn’t enjoying her life anymore, but it was still hard to say good-bye.

Once upon a time, she was so full of life and energy, a small, black-and-white mutt with a huge personality and a furiously wagging tail. But, she had begun to show her age more in recent years, and wasn’t nearly as mobile as she once was.

In the days since I received the news of her death, I’ve been thinking about how much of my life included that little dog.

My sister got Billie as a gift when she was still in junior high, and I was in high school. From the time Billie was very young, we could tell she was ... unique. That’s the best word I can use to describe her and her quirks.

I remember that, for the longest time, she appeared to be licking the same spot on her belly. She never quite seemed to grasp the fact that whatever she was trying to get rid of was actually part of her skin, and it wasn’t going anywhere.

I like to think she just enjoyed entertaining the rest of us.

Billie represented home to me as much as anything else. She was there through all the heartaches, all the happy times, and all the changes in our lives, ready to greet anyone who crossed her path.

So much about my life has changed from what it was when we got her. I graduated from high school and college, got married, got a job in the real world, and became a father, all during Billie’s lifetime.

Likewise, my family’s lives are vastly different from what they were when we got her. Billie had been the one remaining constant in our lives, until now.

I knew this time would come, but it still makes me sad to know she’ll never again greet me when I go to my parents’ house. Sure, they still have their cats — one of which I long ago deemed as mine — but Billie was truly one of a kind.

Some might say it’s silly to make all this fuss over a dog. But to me, Billie was a part of my family, and I’ll miss her — wagging tail and all.

One thing’s for sure, though: She’ll always be with us. Just like that spot on her skin, a personality that big doesn’t go away easily.

Jason A. Smith covers government and politics for the Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached via e-mail at jsmith@henryherald.com.