OP-ED: A letter to my 'son,' Tommi

Samantha Goldthwait-Eck
Lancaster County
Tommi, a K-9 with the York County Sheriff's Department

My stomach turns in agony, my eyes sting and are swollen, my chest is heavy and tight and my heart is smashed like a glass on cement floor.

My pain runs deep into my core and the weight of this, your loss, consumes my waking thoughts, and this nightmare replays as I sleep.

My anger rages. Your loss was not your doing or mine, but here we are, the victims of thoughtless reaction and child-like leadership.

The night we lost you, I sobbed so hard I couldn’t catch my breath. Your bowl sat where it always has. And I stared expressionless out the window into the darkness, wondering where you were and praying you knew you were loved.

I remember the night before you arrived, we sat in bed eager in anticipation of you joining our family and wondering how the rest of our family would manage this exciting transition.

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A lifetime commitment, was what we were told. We were asked how we would make room and if we were prepared to live by your schedule. The answer was a resounding yes.

Boy, was I ready for your arrival. I asked your dad if this is what it felt like for new parents knowing they were going to be welcoming a child. And now that I’ve experienced both, the answer is yes.

You did not disappoint. Your personality brought life to our family in ways that I didn’t know was possible. You breathed life and excitement, silliness and love into every inch of our house and into everyone you met. I will be honest. I didn’t want to love you at first. You had a job to do, I knew that. I was afraid, like many of things I loved before, I would lose you too.

The truth is, I’ve lost a lot in my relatively short life. I’ve lost loving grandparents. I’ve lost the sweetest gray-haired dogs. I’ve lost a baby. I lost my awe-inspiring mother-in-law at 25. But like most love, you forget about the loss, because it is so deep and consuming it is worth taking the chance of a broken heart.

As days turned into months and months into years, you become part of us. Your paw prints fresh on the kitchen floor. Your panting at night lulled me and my pregnant belly to sleep. I was forever finding your hair embedded into work clothes ... well, any clothes for that matter. Nightly walks were routine. And my feet were always warmed by your body as we settled in for the night. You became one of my great loves.

Each call out, I would sleepily pray for your return home, and would drift off with that as the last thought on my mind. I am grateful those prayers were always answered.

I know I wasn’t always perfect. But let’s face it, you do chew like a cow all over the place, and your hair, just like the song, was literally everywhere.

But I deeply miss the dirty paw prints on the kitchen floor. I miss the nose smears on the glass doors and windows. I miss vacuuming multiple times a day to keep up with all the hair. I miss the prancing on the hardwood in the morning. I miss your loving snuggles. I miss all of you — the good and the bad.

This week has has been hard, especially not saying goodbye. It breaks a mother’s heart. Tears stain my pillow as I think about you and your future. Your bowl still sits in the kitchen, but it’s empty. I vacuum knowing that each time more and more of you is disappearing, and soon traces of you will cease to exist; like the line in the lawn from were you ran to and from work each day that will fade in the spring.

What won’t disappear or fade is my deep love for you, Tommi. What I would have told you through tears if I was able to say goodbye is that you will forever be our dog. You will forever be on my mind. I pray that you will always be loved, that you will be protected and that you will never again be used as a political bargaining chip or treated like a piece of equipment. To us, you are priceless.

In our house there will also be a spot for your bowl, room for your your bed and love for our boy. And know, we will always fight for you.

Furever your mom.

— Samantha Goldthwait-Eck is the wife of former York County Sheriff's Department Cpl. Taylor Eck, who left the department this month. Taylor Eck was the handler of Tommi, a K-9 officer. The dog has been assigned to a new handler.