I hate today. Even though I have known for a while that today was coming.
It’s the day we probably have to say goodbye.
It would be great if things could go smoothly, but the baby woke up an hour earlier than normal, and even though I haven’t even tasted my morning coffee yet, my mind has already flitted around to a dozen different things.
All thoughts along the lines of: Is this really it? How can that possibly be true because today was never supposed to happen. I don’t want it to be goodbye, even though I want to do right by you, and why did the baby have to wake up so early and I’m a jumbled mess and I am going to miss you SO much.
While I was standing in my usual spot of the kitchen, where the counter and oven meet and create a snug corner, you were laying in yours.
The baby pulled the lid of the trash can off and spilled coffee grounds all over the floor. I made it over to her just as she started drawing in them with the tip of her finger, and ignored her protests while I cleaned up the mess. Usually, stuff like this would rattle early-morning-Ashley, but not today.
Because I’m doing anything other than thinking about what is going to happen today right now. I’d welcome any mess the kids could make or the phone ringing off the hook or whatever calamity life could stir up rather than stop and deal with reality.
So, the thing is that…you’re a dog. This is not supposed to be that complicated. You’re the beast, I’m the human. Having to make decisions like this is what we signed up for when we signed the adoption papers ten years ago. And it’s not like I’m losing a person. These are the things I am telling myself as I fight against every emotion in me with reason in order to keep all of this in perspective and not lose my mind.
I thought this would all feel a lot easier.
Because I have known for a while that you were going downhill.
I know you can’t get up the stairs like you used to. That you can’t help but have accidents in the house because of your age. Your breathing has grown raspier and more labored as the weeks have passed, and I have watched while you struggled to maintain your balance and not tip over when you tried to scratch behind your ears or bend down to eat out of your dog dish.
You were fading away.
I have hated dealing with it.
I hate it when you wake me up at all hours of the night so that I can let you outside. I hate that occasionally in the morning, I greet the day by stepping in a puddle of fresh urine. I hate it when you are always under my feet. Whether I am carrying children around, or maneuvering while trying to make dinner, I bump into you and trip over you constantly.
I hate it that you have been such an inconvenience at times. Because I apparently have a lump of coal where my heart should be.
What I really hate the most about today is knowing that I did everything wrong sometimes.
My husband and I, we screwed up. We did a lot of the things that pet owners aren’t supposed to do.
We brought the babies home and forgot almost completely about our dogs. I wondered if we should even keep you because you were either under my skin, or we had days where we hardly interacted with you, and it just didn’t seem fair.
You fell several notches in the pecking order instantly. And you didn’t do anything to deserve it.
That’s why I hate today so, so badly. Because I know now that I could have, I -should- have savored every spare moment I had with you.
You were a chunk of my youth. A golden haired, growling, sometimes slightly aggressive chunk of a fledgling stage of my life. A part of my life that I can never get back. We grew older, together. You just probably appreciated it more as time went on than I did.
I didn’t realize how frail you had gotten until the seizures started. Until the accidents were constantly happening. Until I was growling to myself in the middle of the night because I was outside in the cold, looking for you because you had wandered off due to partial blindness and senility. I marched around in a frenzied hurry, half out of anger from the inconvenience, half out of terror that I wouldn’t find you, and that you might freeze before I could.
It was a struggle through a love/hate relationship with pets after the kids came. Because I couldn’t be bothered.
I hate today because I hate that I let a lot of time slip away. Or worse, it couldn’t help but slip away because that’s just what happens.
Sometimes, maybe once a day, we were good friends again. You would curl up on the sofa with me, or I would sit down on the floor and look you in the eyes and remember that you were there. Only recently, I’d rub in between your shoulder blades and note to myself how much sharper they felt than this time last year. But your soft fur was always a security blanket for me whenever I needed it
I know that every one thinks that their dog is a one in a million animal, so it’s become rote to say, but I know we were right about you.
You were a third chance dog.
You were a rescued, abused stray that ended up at a shelter. You always growled at everything, and flinched away from anyone who moved too suddenly. I would imagine they were hesitant to consider you as a great candidate for adoption.
You were most likely going to be euthanized, which is awful because though you reacted to things defensively, it wasn’t your fault. Your compatriot that you were rescued with was almost instantly adopted. But you waited. They were reevaluating you, and trying to come to a decision.
Somehow, you ended up at a different shelter. And within a week, we saw you.
We asked if we could meet you, and as we waited in the fenced in enclosure outside for you to arrive, we watched you bounce on your hind legs the entire way down the sidewalk to us. We decided that you were perfect before we even laid our hands on you.
How could anyone have ever left you behind?
Then we took you home…and you promptly ran down our hallway, jumped on a side table and up on to our computer desk, and stood on our computer. You hadn’t even been home thirty seconds, and you decided that right there was a nice spot.
If we had only known then.
You had to be house broken again. You brought home (SO many) fleas. You dumped over the trash can and barked incessantly, a character trait that made for a lot of fun a few years later when the babies were born.
I remember those first few dark post-partum days, when I thought my sanity was slipping away, and how your constantly following me around made me crack. I couldn’t stand the sound of your feet on the hardwood floor sometimes. I yelled at you to go away and leave me alone.
I didn’t want another living creature around me, but you decidedly elbowed your way into everything anyway, convinced that all that I needed to feel better was you.
And how right you were.
I know that it’s really grasping at straws to start comparing a dog metaphorically to God. But, I can’t help it.
I always thought that we had saved you. The only thing you wanted to do was repay us with love and affection and lot of dust bunnies for the rest of your days, which seems relatively fair.
The truth is that you kind of saved me.
Every time you tipped over the trash can and pulled apart its contents; every time you tripped me up by clinging too closely to my feet; every time I decidedly whispered that you were an a**hole of a dog to myself, and brushed you off, I was being taught a quiet lesson.
How crappy of a daughter of God am I, sometimes? I am rescued. I am beloved. I am safe. I was a cast aside stray. And I sometimes, like you, literally bite the hand that feeds me.
I wail and fight against every ounce of energy someone uses to make my life better. I refuse to change. When I do miraculously happen to do well, I fall back into old habits.
But how badly do I want to be loved? How I yearn for acceptance, and affection and for someone whose heart beats just for me, even if I sometimes go searching for it in the wrong places.
How many times in the last year did you remind me that I was lost, but now I am found, blind but now I see. How many times did you remind me that I was rescued, and grafted into an unshakeable family tree, irregardless of my past. Even if I did decide to poop on the living room rug.
Old friend, sometimes, you were a crummy doggy. You were convinced that all twenty-two pounds of you were in charge of all that you surveyed. You weren’t a great choice for a family. You honestly didn’t like the kids until they were old enough to feed you treats. You growled at everyone. You were not a dog owner’s dream in many respects.
But I never appreciated your sheer enthusiasm to be alive enough. Your delight at being someplace where you mattered. For some people, that is their only dream, too.
And I am sorry that sometimes, we didn’t show you often enough in the end just how much you were loved. I never learned from you enough, I never learned how to treat everyone around me as one more potential friend.
But you did matter. And that is why today just sucks so badly. Today, I am reminded in the most painful way possible why you matter to me so, so much.
A small part of me goes with you.
A part of me that used to be this twenty year old, carefree girl, who didn’t know what she wanted out of her life. Before obligations set in. Before life set in, we had each other. We had a lot of fun. We had a lot of cuddles. We had a lot of all of the things. And for all of your faults -wait, scratch that, for all of MY faults, I can never, ever say that you weren’t faithful. You were a good dog.
We grew older, together.
And I am so, so glad that we did.
The Great Gatsby, The Sheriff, you are missed.