Monday, November 16, 2020

You Were the Best to Say Hello to, and the Worst to say Goodbye to...

 I have always been a dog person.  I mean, I am an animal person.  Snakes, lizards, rats, mice, gerbils, frogs, turtles, a cat, and the family dog.  But when I reached my adult life, boy did I want a dog.  I wanted a dog so much that I convinced my husband that he liked dogs too, and in the summer of 2006, I found Zoe.

I had researched my breeds, and read how Australian Shepherds are "Velcro Dogs" and were good hikers and runners and really good family dogs, and I said, "Okay, this is the kind of dog I want."  I kept an eye on the newspaper, and saw Aussie puppies!  Visited them once.  And begged and pleaded with my then husband, and we brought Zoe (named Daisy, but renamed Zoe) home.

The first day I met you.

Zoe was my dog.  We hiked, we romped we roamed.  She went pretty much everywhere we could taker her.  I never needed a leash with her.  She would stay with me on walks, she would try to catch chipmunks and squirrels.  She would make sure the cat behaved, she would clean up the floor and high-chair around the baby once the baby had entered the house.  She loved all of us, but it was me she watched for.  My then husband would tell stories about how she seemed to know when I was coming down the road when I was away - she would perk up and go to the door, and wait.

You were a nanny to the baby.

You were the best trail dog, bar none.

How do we, as humans, get so lucky to have these creatures in our lives, but so unlucky that they can only fill a small part for such a small part of time in our lives?

The years went by.  The walks got shorter.  I needed to put Zoe on a leash just to keep her moving.  She stayed home from adventures more, and hated it.  There was the last walk on campus, because she couldn't go very far.

She was still sassy.  She was still happy.  She ate, she had cookies, but she couldn't walk up stairs anymore.  She couldn't always make it inside, and she had more accidents.  She sometimes looked through me, and her fur was dry, her eyes were clouding, and her teeth were bad.

You always wanted to catch those chippies.

You would fling your Kong at me when you wanted it filled with peanut butter

I have never done anything so hard as to try to decide, and then finally make the choice to say goodbye to her.  I sometimes, frustrated with her slow movement, the accidents, her pain and age, I would just hope to wake and find her gone.  But it doesn't work like we would think it should.

Did I send her away too soon?  I will always, always wonder if I did the right thing.  But she was still smiling,  she was happy, she seemed to feel, ok, if not good.  I realized I have been mourning her since she stopped "arrooing."  Since she stopped getting on the bed and the couch to rest her head on my chest.  Since she stopped being able to hike with me, and lay in the creek and dunk her snout. 

You were never far from the person you picked as yours.

There were a lot of tears, spread out over years, as I mourned my adventurous girl, the younger dog she used to be.  I still would bury my head in her fur and sniff, and scritch her under her armpits. 

Goodbye, old girl.  I will never forget you, and I will always love you.

But she stopped asking for more scritches.  She still asked to go in and out, she made the motions, but I decided, it had to be time.  Before she couldn't get up.  Before she couldn't still see me.  Before she was in pain and fear.

I did the best I could.  I know she had the best life.  That doesn't make it easier to breathe on the days I miss her so much that my chest hurts.

I've not ever grieved like this, where I wake in the middle of the night and stills step around the place she would be.  Or turn to look at her spot in front of the door and feel the sharp spike of loss.  Or let the other dog out and just, cry, inexplicably as the wind picks up and rattles the windchimes.

It took me a month and a half to get these words down, and I'm still weeping and my eyes are red as I write this.  I am not sure what's on the other side of life, but losing this girl, makes me hope, one day, she will come up to me, arrooing and wiggling her nub so much that she's bent in half, and we can lay together in the sun and shade and wind and all will be right and good again...