I’ve been thinking about Mugen a lot lately. I can’t help it. His birthday just passed and then the anniversary of Lucy’s passing came and went and it was so much easier for me to cuddle with him than it was to face my memories of her and how much losing her hurt me, then I lost him too and everything just came down on me. I haven’t been very social since he died, not even with my own family. I know that most of my friends are going to think I’m crazy for this, but I feel like I’ve lost a child. Mugen was my baby! I woke up with him in the middle of the night, I was choosy about what he ate and what he drank, I made sure that he had structured play time and that I made plenty of time for learning for him too. I did everything that you would do to raise a child with Mugen. That’s why it hurts so much and why I’m taking it so hard. So, I’ve been locked up inside my office and inside my head, thinking about my memories of him and how much love we shared. I’ve been angry too, so very angry, that having him back is just not something I can ever get. I want to share my memories here now. This is part of my recovery. This is how I am going to put myself back together. I have cried most of the time that I’ve been writing this piece, but please understand that they have been tears of healing and tears of joy, not just tears of grief.
These are some of my memories of Mugen:
When he was a puppy, his paw pads were so soft! I was amazed by how soft they were.
His elbows didn’t have callouses on them at all. All of my other dogs have been shelter dogs, so they laid on hard concrete floors and developed callouses on their elbows.
I loved his zippered nose.
His breeder said to me when I picked him out of his litter, “I think he’s the cutest puppy.” Before we left with him, she kissed him good-bye and said, “You be a good boy.” He was.
He yelped really loudly when he was microchipped before leaving the breeder’s farm. I felt so sorry for him. When it was over, that was the first time I hugged him and kissed the top of his head and I was already in love.
That entire first day that he was home, I saw how lonely he was without his litter mates. That first night, I put him in a puppy pen at the foot of my bed and got up with him every two hours to take him out to potty and I hugged him as I carried him down the stairs and told him that we were his new pack and that we would always be by his side and play with him every day, and we did.
There was nothing more wonderful to me, than watching him sleep. For the first month that he was home, that was our favorite past time as a family. We would all lay around him in a circle on the floor and listen to him snooze.
His smiles were rare. He was a very serious dog, especially as he grew out of the puppy stage and into adulthood. When he did smile, it lit up my whole world.
His coat was incredibly soft and his ears were like velvet. When he died, I sat beside his body for at least an hour, just touching his still soft feet and caressing his ears and dear God, how I cried.
I remember how he smelled. Each dog has a unique scent about them, Lucy smelled like denim. Reilly smelled like grass. Jazzmin smells like clean laundry. Jet smells like sunshine. Lexi smells kind of fruity, but I’m not sure if that’s her or just the dog shampoo I use. Mugen smelled like the soil from my grandpa’s garden.
Cuddling with him on the living room sofa was my favorite part of the day.
Listening to him snore made me laugh!
We had so much fun in dog school! I was so proud of him every day! I remember a training assistant in our class said to me, “I love watching the two of you work. You’re completely in sync with each other. You’re going to have such a wonderful life together!” and she was right.
Mugen accepted Jet right away. It was as if they were always meant to be together. I wondered how that would go, but I never should have second guessed Mugen’s incredible temperament.
Mugen was everything that I had ever dreamed a Labrador Retriever could be and more. If I ever decide to bring another puppy into my life, his temperament, his sweetness and his fun loving nature and zest for life are the things I will look for before putting down a deposit.
I never could have raised Mugen by myself. When he hit the teenage stage, we adopted Lucy and she saved his life at least twice.
Dog school saved Mugen’s life once when he bolted out the front door and ran toward the curb and I shouted, “Mugen, HALT!” He came to a complete stop and planted his butt on the ground before he could get to the street and run out in front of an oncoming car. He understood that “halt” meant “Stop whatever you are doing, and sit down right now.”
Mugen loved to smell flowers, so I planted some right outside my front door every spring, and I still do.
I may have another chocolate Lab someday, maybe. Looking at photos of other people’s chocolates is still hard for me, but if I do, I don’t think I’ll be able to call him or her a “brown dog”. Mugen was my brown dog, my obnoxious puppy butt, my Mr. Puppy Man, and McStinky. These tongue in cheek nicknames will always belong to him alone.
My time with Mugen was incredibly short, but he was meant to be a part of my journey. I see things that I learned from him applying to my life every single day, especially the obedience classes that we took together, but also in the mindset that I had about being a puppy parent and how I wanted to do everything right with him. I carry that forward into my life with my dogs now, often without even thinking about it first and it doesn’t always go smoothly but, because of Mugen, I know how things can be if I just stick with it and keep trying. I will always miss him and I will always love him and he will always be a part of me and I think that is what gives meaning to his life, no matter how brief it was. Sometimes I ask myself, “What the hell was it all for?” and then I look in the mirror and I know.
He was meant to make me a better person out of me and that’s exactly what he did.
I love you Mugen. Run free sweet boy. Stay close to Lucy, Duchess and Reilly. They will take care of you until I get there.