I miss you so much! Who knew how much it could hurt? Every little thing reminds me of you, because until yesterday you were some part of even of my smallest movements. As I sit on the sofa you’re not there to snuggle up and burrow under the throw, with your back pushing up against my leg. When I went to bed, you weren’t there lying directly where my legs go, then crawling up to lie between Bob and I to get your good-night pets and kisses. When I go to the bathroom, you’re not there to push the door wide open, making me a little annoyed for a split second, only to pet you from my less than dignified perch. You weren’t there this morning to lick the salty water off my ankles when I stepped out of the shower.
And now I am alone in the house. Bob has gone to help Doug, with my blessings because I knew I wanted to write to you. I am so very alone without you, my little buddy. Your big brown eyes, the expressions in which were capable of the most nuanced communication: “Is that for me?” “I’m coming too, right?” “Are you OK?” “Do you see what that bothersome – fill-in-the-blank – is doing?” “Don’t you dare!” “I love you!” Your expressive ears, up high with their floppy little bends at the top when something piqued your interest, straight back and pinched against your head as you march with conviction along the seawall. Or, most often, ears high, tail high, bulldog strut from the front, dainty girl from the back.
I loved the smell of your paws; a sweet little stinky feet smell. The smell of your eyeballs and your ears. Your breath and what came out the other end, not so much.
I loved kissing you on your head and muzzle, petting your soft head and ears, massaging the rough on your shoulders and back, and resting my hand on your tiny waist as you lay beside me.
I loved you sitting between us in the car, on your perch just behind us, head often resting on the back of Bob’s seat. Or, sitting straight up with your ears alert and eyes shining as we approached a known walk or a new adventure.
I loved you growling when I tried to move you without your permission.
Over the last week I noticed that we came full circle. Maybe that was part of how I knew your time was very close. When you were a tiny puppy, small enough to rest in my hand, you helped with Morgan’s early morning paper route. You’d walk as far as you could, then plunk your little butt down on the sidewalk and look way up with those huge brown eyes, “Up please!” I’d tuck you in the little pouch tied around my waist, made of a silk scarf on the inside and a wool one on the outside. Lately, you stopped mid-walk in the very same way, and I carried you home in my arms, loving that I could be there for you. When you were a wee puppy, I would pick you up and take you out to pee every time you woke up or finished eating. For the past couple of days, I carried you out to the yard and placed you gently on the ground so you could have a pee, or throw up, feeling glad I was there for you, my little life buddy.
It came on so quickly. Bob and I have been preparing ourselves for months, since first finding out you had kidney disease. You weren’t supposed to make it to the fall, certainly not Christmas, and it would have been insane to think you’d see another day of summer-like weather. But you lived fully, if not a bit more slowly, to see it all. And then something changed. Something ever so subtle whispered between us that our time together here was coming to an end.
Friday on our morning walk at Rathtrevor, you stopped to go back to the car when we had barely reached the beach path. Bob and I decided to sit on a log for awhile and watched you as you found sticks and chewed on them and then rested behind the log. The rest of the day you slept a lot, but nothing seemed significantly different. You were pickier with your food, but that had happened before. That night you wolfed down a bowl of freshly cooked liver, compliments of your favourite and ever-doting chef, Bob. You nestled in with us for bed. All was well.
The next morning, you threw up in the yard, as you occasionally have since your illness. But this time instead of just bile, the liver from the night before and some grass you had eaten was there. It meant your little canine body, capable of digesting just about anything before your Grandpa Danny even finished his dinner, was not doing its job. Auntie Shirley and I took you for a walk and you stopped again at the same spot you had the day before. But this time, when she and I sat on a log, you just lay down. You didn’t look for wood to chew. That had never happened before. That was different. The rest of the day, you rested a lot as has been normal.
Sunday morning, it was obvious you were not up for even trying a walk. You were weak. You hadn’t eaten anything, turning your head away from fresh sausage and liver. I carried you out to have a pee. You walked a couple of feet toward the hedge, peed, then walked another two feet to slump under the chair by the fire pit. I carried you to the sofa and sat with you all morning. You drank a bit when I brought the bowl up to you, but not enough. Shirley and I went out for a couple of hours to sneak a little celebration of Mother’s Day, during which you apparently watched hockey snuggled up to Bob on the sofa the whole time.
When I got back, I knew it was time to call the doctor and arrange for her to come see you the next day. I felt reassured that I could cancel if you bounded back, as you’ve done before; but I knew you wouldn’t this time. That night, we had our last night together. I snuggled, kissed and petted you, as I cried but tried not to so that you wouldn’t feel my upset. Then something amazing happened. I began to remember all our wonderful times together and a smile spread across my face and my heart lightened. I drifted into a loving sleep.
The next morning, I awoke with a start, scurrying to the end of the bed to pet you. I tried not to cry and to just enjoy our morning snuggles. There was nothing for you to pee when I carried you outside. You just plunked your butt down and looked up at me, uncharacteristically sheepish, “I can’t do it, Mom.” I picked you up and carried your little fury warm and weak puppy self to the sofa and there we sat together for the rest of the day. You turned your nose away from offers of water, but licked some off my fingers and then more from the bowl, but only if my hand was in the water offering it up to you. I took you out again, to see if you could pee, but this time you just stood on all fours and shook a little, so I gently scooped you to my chest and we returned to the sofa.
We had hours ahead. I didn’t want to be distracted by TV, computer or a book. I didn’t want to write about how I felt. I wanted to be there with you, in full measure, every minute we had left together. The vet, Anne, was coming around 2:00 pm. She said your kidneys had shut down, given that you weren’t peeing at all. More evidence that you were near your end. But I knew anyway. And I knew you felt very unwell. But, you were otherwise peacefully right beside me. Bob came home from taking Shirley to the ferry and we sat together until Anne came.
Anne came in gently and explained everything that was going to happen. You noticed her and were a little on edge for a brief moment. Then you rested back against me. Anne filled out a form for us, Bob signed it and paid for the service so that we wouldn’t have to think about it after. Then the process I dreaded most began.
With instructions from Anne, Bob gave you a little gel in the corner of your mouth. That was supposed to relax you a bit to help with the shot that would help you drift into an anesthetized sleep. After a short bit, you struggled to get up to get off the sofa, so I carried you outside. You needed to vomit. Your tiny frail body draped weakly in my hands as I helped you stand to get rid of the offending liquid. I collected you in my arms and thought, “I’m here for you. We’re in this together and that’s the only way I want to remember this.”
When we returned, you relaxed more and Anne gave you a shot in your scruff to help you drift to sleep. You slowly did so, as we petted you. Once asleep Anne took your paw and pressed it into some clay so that we would have your paw print. The fact that anyone, and especially a stranger, could touch your paw at all was a sure sign you were sleeping soundly. Then there was time for Bob and I to be alone with you for one last bit while you were alive. One on each side, we petted you, kissed you, and said how much we loved you.
When we were ready, as ready as we could be, Anne covered you with a fleecy blanket so we couldn’t watch her inject the fluid that would stop your amazing brain and then your huge, loving heart. I held your paw, feeling the soft underside of it in my fingers. It took 3 injections, but we could see you were deeply asleep and not in any distress. And then you were gone.
Your limp little body looked like you were resting peacefully. Bob and I petted you more, as Anne gave us space to be with you for a bit and prepare ourselves for your physical form to be gone from us forever. I kissed you on your head and muzzle and said I love you and good-bye. As did Bob. We were both crying. When we were ready, Anne brought a special blanket in and gently wrapped your body, with your head showing. She then carried you close against her body, out to her car.
Bob and I stood behind the closed door, holding each other, and cried and cried. Then I watched through the blinds as Anne backed out and drove away. After, we both drifted around the house. I walked aimlessly around crying, noticing everything of yours, not knowing what to do with myself. I didn’t want to move your stuff. I just cried. But I took the blanket off the sofa. You had piddled every so little what was left in your bladder as you passed. Anne told us you would. I went to get your halter and removed your license, and then set out to find a way to put it on my bracelet; but I couldn’t find anything, so I put it in my jewelry drawer for later.
Then, I realized I did need to clean up and put away your things. I knew that it would be too much to have them out, as though you were coming back to them, to us. The emptiness was already setting in, the pain of loosing you crushing my chest. I walked around the house gathering your things and tidying up, crying. And every now and then, Bob and I hugged, and went back to more tidying the myriad of material things that evidenced our everyday lives together with you.
So many thoughts and feelings went through as I started to grieve, including dreading ever walking anywhere where we walked with you. But after we had tidied up I knew we needed to walk the Rathtrevor trail that evening. And so we did. Without you.
I didn’t get the harness and leash out of the front cupboard, nor peeling off a couple of doggie bags. I didn’t hook you up and help you jump in the car, up to your perch. You didn’t jump out of the car when we got there and put on the brakes with the very first super important sniffing opportunity. We didn’t stop every two feet for you to sniff another great pee-mail. You didn’t bound along the trail, zigzagging and putting on the brakes and back-tracking when your sniffer alerted you to something you missed. We didn’t pick you up to protect the small unleashed dog coming down the path ahead, or for the big tough looking one that you would have surely barked profanities at to make sure he knew you could take him on if given the chance.
We didn’t do any of those things that we have done together for years. Instead Bob and I just walked along alone, hand-in hand, noticing the differences and the beauty of our surroundings, grateful that we forced ourselves to walk your favourite trail.
Last night, I cried to be without you going to bed. Bob and I snuggled alone, no little body pressed up against my legs, taking up half the king-sized bed. When I woke, my heart sunk because you weren’t there for our morning snuggles. Instead, I caught myself kissing Bob all over his face and head, like I did each morning to you. Maybe this means more puppy love for my dear husband!
This morning, Bob and I went for a walk along the community beach, another of your favourite walks, deciding that we like the morning and evening walks inspired by you and Raven, with whom you are now frolicking in heaven. I cried here and there; and I know I will more. I know the pain will stay for as long as it needs to. I can take it. You were strong. I can be too.
Thank you, my dearest puppy, for sharing your life with me. You are one amazing dog (but then you’ve been saying that for years!).