By Keith Crowley


Courtesy of Keith Crowley

The author's Lab, Rosie, as a puppy.


This is the deal, and I know we both agree: You promise not to cry too much at the beginning. I promise to make leaving your first family as painless as I can. I won’t lie to you; it’s going to hurt for a little while.

You promise to make everyone you meet smile from ear to ear. And promise that if they get down on the ground with you, you will kiss them frantically. I promise they’ll like that.

You promise that you’ll think every person you see from now on will be the greatest person you’ve ever met. Promise to wag and pant and bounce and pounce.

You promise to try hard not to have accidents in the house. I promise to be patient with those accidents. In the beginning you will surely do better at your part than I will at mine. I promise I’ll work on that.

I promise that when the day comes to learn why you were born, I’ll be there to teach you. Sometimes it will feel like play, but I promise there will be days when it will be hard work. Promise to do your best.

I promise that we will use your training and talents as often as possible. Sometimes I’ll have to be elsewhere, doing things I don’t really want to do. Promise you’ll be patient with me. There will be long hours when you don’t have much to do, but I promise I’ll be thinking about you.

I promise that we’ll take long walks and even longer rides to get where we’re going. I promise those places will be worth it even if we don’t find something to bring back with us. You promise to never stop searching.

I promise that sometimes I’ll hit what I aim at, and your mouth will be full of feathers. Please promise that you’ll ignore my poor shooting.

Promise to forgive me when I don’t trust your nose. Sometimes my eyes deceive me. Your abilities always seem like alchemy, and it’s hard for me to understand how different your world is.

I promise to watch out for you when we’re on our adventures. Your single-mindedness can get you into trouble, so I will have to be vigilant. I promise that your welfare is my biggest concern. Promise you won’t hide your pains. As much as I want to, I can’t read your thoughts. 

I promise I’ll remember that you’re aging faster than I am. Promise you will help me feel young.

Promise that your heart won’t push your body too far. I promise that when the day comes to quit this magnificent game, I’ll spend time with you on long, slow walks.

I promise I’ll always play with you if we are both still able. I promise that’s good for us both.

I promise I’ll leave the window down for you on our drives, even when it’s cold. Promise you’ll leave nose prints wherever you can.

Promise you’ll tell me when you’ve had enough. I promise I’ll be there for you when that time comes.

Promise to never really leave me. I promise to never forget.

I promise not to cry too much at the end. That’s the one promise I might not be able to keep.