I don't remember exactly how long it's been.
Dogs die. That is one of the most terrible lessons life has to give. I've learned it a few times now. Tonight, as I watch a movie, I am reminded again. I've been lucky.
I've been lucky, I haven't watched most of the dogs in my life in their last moments. I did watch one. She had been slowing down for a while. She was a beautiful ... she was beautiful. We played in the back yard. She peed when she'd meet me at the door because she was afraid of me, but loved me, some big scary human. The more time we spent together, the less she was apprehensive about me. The more we bonded. I spent time training her to stay, and she learned, not out of fear, but because she learned to trust that I'd make her life better if we wanted the same things.
We learned how to be friends. Those were the great days. In my mind, in my memories, those days have a golden tint. If there is a happy place in my brain, it's there. Not that there haven't been hundreds of other great times, but I could live in those memories forever.
Time doesn't let us. Time passes.
The day came when she didn't get up anymore. I made her as comfortable as I could, but the days turned into dreading the pain she dealt with every day. You don't do that to your friends. I knew when the time came. I tried to ignore it, but I knew. You can only procrastinate for so long, but it is finite. The time came. I knew. When she tried to bite anyone who approached her, not because she was angry, but because she was hurting. I knew and I couldn't procrastinate any longer. Friends don't leave each other to suffer like that. I took her to the vet. I bundled her in a blanket and eased her into the backseat of my car. When the people at the vets came out to help me, I told them that she'd never bite at someone when she was okay... they understood.
I wore sunglasses. I didn't want to see people seeing me cry. I didn't have to stay with her, they were kind to tell me, but I did. I had to stay with her. Friends don't leave, even when it hurts. It hurt. Years later I read that the pets, being put down, do look for their family in their final moments. I didn't know that at the time. I just knew I had to stay with her. My friend wouldn't die alone. I couldn't make everything okay, but she wouldn't be alone, that much I could do.
They offer burial services for pets. They will bury them in individual plots, have services, and do whatever you need in order to honor the passing of family. I appreciate that. Nothing in the world makes the death of a friend, of family, okay, but the chance to honor their time on earth is something worth appreciating.
I didn't do that.
I remember standing at the desk, wearing my sunglasses, knowing they knew I was crying. They offered me options for burial. It was kindness. I appreciated it. It didn't matter. I told them thank you, but no. She wasn't there anymore. She wasn't in her body anymore. I understand that people attach the spirit to the body in their mind, but at that moment, I knew. I knew there, standing at that desk, the friend I loved wasn't in her body anymore. I cared about my friend, but nothing else, certainly not some leftover meat. I told them that whatever was easiest, whatever was cheapest, was fine. So long as it didn't dishonor her memory, I didn't care.
I walked out with the tracks of tears leaking below my sunglasses. Nobody was fooled. I lost my friend and I missed her then. I miss my friend now. It's been hard to consider getting a dog again. It sounds so shallow, like buying a bookcase, getting a dog. It sounds like like you're buying a possession, but you're buying something that money really can't buy, a friend.
I'm not ready for that. Maybe someday I will be. Dogs have been my friends. I'm built to love them, to understand them, to make them my friends and raise them like I raised my children, to be good people... or dogs or whatever. I want to be ready to have another dog. To learn to love another friend of a different species... but I'm not ready. Maybe someday. Hopefully someday soon.
Update 2023: We now have two dogs. They have brought joy to our home.