When Erin was only 5, we had to put down one of the most wonderful dogs I’ve ever owned. And I can’t make up my mind whether that makes her lucky on balance because she got to spend those first 5 years with such an amazing, gentle, loveable companion – or whether it makes her unlucky on balance because she had to experience that kind of loss at such a young age. I guess I have to go with lucky. Abbey was a great dog.
And I remember that, when the time came, Erin insisted on coming along to the vet’s. Looking back, I have NO IDEA what I was thinking, bringing a 5-year-old to watch the dog she’d spent every day of her life with be put to sleep. There was something about her insistence and the understanding way she talked about wanting to come along. I just knew – she needed to be there.
And she was.
She and I gently stroked Abbey’s head and neck and fought back tears as we watched the life slowly fade in her eyes. I remember walking out through the lobby, holding a leash that suddenly seemed impossibly pointless and out of place. Someone in the lobby made some kind of encouraging comment and I coughed out something intended to sound dismissive and chipper. But really, I don’t think Erin or I even really heard what the woman said. We were so focused on just making it to the car. Just get me to the car. Then I can collapse and bawl like a 5-year-old.
And we did.
A month or so ago, my friends Heidi and Dan had to put down Copper. To be honest, I haven’t seen Heidi or Dan in years – much less Copper. But when Heidi and I worked together, we all used to get daily Copper updates. That dog was so spoiled and so loved and we used to hear all about it. And when I heard that Copper had died, I felt a loss – even if it was just that ricocheted kind of loss you feel when you know someone you care about is hurting.
This week Gina and Eric finally had to make the decision I think Gina’s been avoiding for awhile (which is easy to do when you’re too close to see). Coaster’s gone now. All of our kids loved Coaster. Corinne and I still laugh about the great time we had watching after Coaster (though they never asked us again…Coaster must have told stories when he got home). And when everyone around you loves a dog (even you, Eric) it makes perfect sense to hang on as tight as you can for as long as you can.
Shouko’s 10 (and a half!) now. And she still barks ferociously at pedestrians, and she still sucks it up and takes the shock every now and again so she can take off out of the yard and go scavenge for something cool to bring home. So she’s fine. (“Greg, she’s been sleeping since we got home in that same position – do you think maybe something’s wrong?” “NO, SHE’S FINE!”)
(sigh) I think it’s a cruel evolutionary joke that our caveman ancestors chose wolves, with their frustratingly short lifespans, to befriend. Why the hell didn’t cavemen pick turtles?
Gina, when Shouko’s time comes, I pray I have the strength and honesty to recognize it as gracefully as you have.
And since, as we all know, all dogs go to heaven, some day I hope to hang out with Abbey and Copper and Coaster and Shouko (but not Lassie, that prima donna bitch) and ask them: Can you guys see in color now?
[Editor’s note: Justin Gauerke, where you’re going, I’m pretty sure you’ll still be color blind!]