This post will have absolutely nothing to do with miles and points. If that’s the value you get out of my blog, I’m very thankful, but this post won’t help you with any of that. I was inspired to write this today after watching my good friend Summer (Mommy Points) share a similar story not too long ago as she dealt with the pain of losing her companion. Writing has always been an outlet for me, whether happy or sad. It’s a necessary outlet right now.
I remember that day almost 14 years ago when my wife and I decided to get a dog. Well, in fairness, when I decided to get her a dog in the hopes that I could put off having kids for a while.
We had it in our mind to get a rescue dog and Michelle had narrowed the choices down to a select few. Oddly, one of them shared the name of my cousin, Serena. She was the first dog up on our list to see, with 2 choices after. We never did make it to see any of the other dogs. My wife had it in her head that if this sub-7 lb abused dog would cast away her shyness and come out from hiding while we were there, she was the right dog for us.
Michelle sat on an ottoman in the house of the rescue worker who was taking care of Serena for quite some time. My wife, in case you don’t know, has a hidden stubborn streak. She outlasted Serena and that cute, little dog finally gave in and came to give her a sniff or two.
I had never owned a dog before. I had a cat growing up, but never considered myself a dog person. And yet, when we got her home that night and Michelle set a bed up for her on the floor, I queried her on why we just didn’t let the dog up onto the bed to sleep with us. In for a penny….
I could spend a month chronicling the ups and downs of Serena. From the kid that she bit on the hand when he tried to climb over our fence to get at our newborn daughter, to the day in “dog court” where Michelle broke down crying because Serena had been labeled a dangerous dog and forced to wear a muzzle in public for 2 years. I tell this part of the story to include the whole picture, not just the rosy parts.
And yet, anyone who met Serena knew she was all bark (99.9%?) and no bite. When we first brought her home and I would walk downstairs in the morning she would squat and pee on the floor out of fear, all the while her tail wagging as she was happy to see me.
There was that early moment in the puppy days, in our brand hew house with white berber carpet, the “new construction smell” still present. Serena grabbed a strawberry off the table, a lush, fresh, juicy strawberry. She proceeded to toss it up on the air and let it land (splat!) on the carpet, over and over. We chased her, and it turned into a game for her. Furious and laughing at the same time, we cleaned up those red spots from the carpet and loved her all the more.
There were days she got along with the kids and days she didn’t, the original first child who felt jealous at times when she couldn’t get our attention. There was the nickname “Swiper” that our daughter gave her from Dora the Explorer, because of how quickly she could steal food when nobody was looking.
She had severe allergies, so much so that she used to rub her snout on the carpet to stop the itching. I came home one day and heard her whimpering. Her collar was stuck on a single strand of carpet. She easily could have tugged and broken free, but she really was a tender soul and was just sitting there, whimpering, trapped by the thinnest of strands. After I released her she showered me with love.
Michelle would joke about how Serena loved me more than her. She reasoned it was because she was the one giving all the tough love, cleaning out her ears when they bothered her, which was a constant. We would joke about who would get the dog if we ever divorced, as we both loved her fiercely. I can’t reasonably say that Serena loved any of us more than the other. She just unconditionally loved, and she captured my heart from the moment we brought her home.
She started out as Michelle’s running buddy when she would train for marathons, running on the trails near our house. Over time, she expressed her lack of interest in running alongside Michelle, preferring to lounge around the house and bark at the occasional bird she would see on TV (the big picture window in the toy room she would stare through for hours). But, she’d always come back for a sprint, even as recently as a couple of weeks ago.
She loved to give kisses and snuggle, loved hogging the bed and snored (though not as loud as my wife). At times, she enjoyed sleeping with both kids, and they with her. Her hind leg would twitch when you rubbed her belly and she would writhe in glee from the attention.
She let the kids dress her up in various costumes, she chased Charlie when he would run away with a carrot. She loved carrots almost as much as spare ribs. And chicken. And whole loaves of bread. Bags of marshmallows. And, pretty much anything else she could get her hands on.
There was the one day we got her to stick her paws in the pool. She was horrified and never came near it again. There was the humongous backyard we had in the house we bought a number of years ago so she could run free. She got stung by a whole bunch of yellowjackets and was scared to leave the deck most days after that. And, there was the snow. She LOVED the snow, bounding about in the recent high drifts even though her old legs would betray her from time to time. She’d wander far and wide in the snow, no matter how cold it was. This dog who would make me hold an umbrella over her to go to the bathroom in the rain had no problem burying herself in the snow.
For 14 years we called her our puppy. She had the excitement of one as well as the mischief level. And, when I brought her to the vet this morning because she was exhibiting some weird (but mostly mild) symptoms, I wasn’t expecting the doctor to tell me she had a 50/50 shot of making it.
I wasn’t expecting the phone call less than an hour later so we could come back to “discuss options”. We chose to pull the kids out of school and let them spend the afternoon saying goodbye to the only pet they’ve ever known. They laughed and cried, with our 9-year old mostly crying and our 5-year old really not quite grasping the situation. We fed her dog treats and pizza, a royal combination. The toughest part of it all was trying to process what should have been weeks or months of grief and decision-making into one condensed session, trying to feel that we were making the right choice when confronted with damning evidence of her slim chances for good health.
There were other choices, but they involved lots of risk and likely lots of pain for our puppy. So, in the end, we chose the unselfish path and chose to let her go. When the time came, she went fast. The kids were gone so my wife and I could cry freely. And, we did. The totality of our decision sunk in and there was this fear for me. Did we make the right decision? Maybe we should have tried something else?
In the end, those decisions seemed the selfish choice. While our girl recognized us from time to time in the 8 hours we spent with her lying on that floor, she spent most of the time lightly shaking and not being able to see us that well. There was the occasional kiss from her, but none of those trademark head nudges that would knock you over. I’ll miss those incredibly. I left on my most recent trip covered in dog hair because she wanted to have another marathon head nudging session, grinding her head into my chest so I’d scratch her ears just a little bit more before I left.
I’d be honest with you if I felt at all ashamed at the knowledge that I spent most of the day crying. Or if I felt ashamed of crying while I wrote this. I’m not even a little. I’m happy to hear my daughter playing with her best friend in the other room. It’s the first time since noon that she isn’t crying. I’m sure there will be plenty of tears tonight and on many nights in the future.
Catherine summed it up well when we sat with her at the vet today, “Even though she bit me once, I know she loved me so much. I just can’t live without her.”
In reality, all of us can live without her. It just doesn’t feel that way now.
It will get better, and there will likely be another dog in our future.
She always knew when I was getting ready to leave on a trip. She’d start moping a bit, but still followed me around to let me know how much she loved me, peering at me as I headed to the door from wherever she was laying. When I got home she’d knock me over getting her head nudges in at the same time the kids would tackle me. There isn’t much more rewarding than that kind of unconditional love.
This time I knew that she was the one getting ready to leave on a trip. I don’t know if she could recognize my crying, my anguish. I was the one looking for that last head nudge, languishing for one last little kiss from her.
The doctor told us that some folks stayed for the end, others didn’t, that the choice was up to us. It was never really a choice. She was always watching me when I left the house, always there when I returned. It was our turn to see her on her way.
When everyone is asleep tonight, I’ll be looking around the house for her. I know she’s not coming back, but it doesn’t mean I won’t be hoping.
The post When Life Takes A Heart-Breaking Turn was published first on Pizza in Motion.