‘Big Yellow Taxi’ by Joni Mitchell is one of my favorite songs. Not because of the melody, but because of the message it sends. “You don’t know what you got ‘till it’s gone” Joni sings. You never really appreciate what you have until it’s gone.
I’ve been alive for a little more than twelve years, but it only took me eight to truly appreciate and realize this value. “Augie the Doggy”, Augie for short, had been in my family since way before my time. He was the true definition of man’s-best-friend: ready to play at the bounce of a ball, but ready to comfort at the splash of a tear. He was 95 pounds of sweetness. Augie had always been part of the family; always there for you but not asking anything in return, in a way, he was part of what held our family together. Through fights and losses, all you had to do was look into those big, brown, hopeful eyes and be able to smile through even the hardest times. But as Augie grew older his barks grew softer and his paws grew duller, and when I was eight years old, he died.
I had never realized how empty my house felt without the presence of a water bowl and the faded smell of dog food. My family was never the same again. It seemed that the life I was accustomed to had vanished along with my dog. Everyone began to watch their step a little more, always cautious and on guard, being unusually polite to each other. That feeling of comfort that only your own home brings was no longer there. But as the days passed after Augie’s death, my sadness turned into regret and anger at myself. All those times I’d carelessly walked by my feel-good pet without even bending down to pet him I would never make up. That day I knew I would never get to apologize, that I’d be living with the guilt of ignorance for the rest of my life.
It took me a couple of years to look reality in the eye and be able to admit that his time had come, but I know that it will take the rest of my life to look hope in the eye, and say “in spite of the hardship, I will move on.” You don’t know what you got till it’s gone, which is why you have to live every moment like it was your last.
Augie taught me a lot of things… He taught me to appreciate what you have and to live on in spite of sadness. Most importantly, he taught me how lucky I am. I am positive that I would be a different person if my dad had decided not to visit the pound that day 18 years ago. I know how to love, how to miss, and I know that everyone will have regrets, and that’s ok. All that matters is that you learn from your mistakes.
Augie never was, and never will be gone. It’s like getting a deep cut; it will heal, and stop hurting, but the scar will be there forever. You don’t know what you got till it’s gone. This, I believe.