A little over two weeks ago, I took my dog to the vet for an ultrasound. She had been losing weight quickly over the month-and-a-half leading up to the appointment, and I’d been worried about how bony she was getting. The ultrasound showed cancer throughout her liver. How long did she have? Hard to say. Possibly a few months.
I took her home and began reckoning with the fact that Sweet Pea was indeed not immortal. I started thinking about what I’d do. How I’d say goodbye.
I’d thought — definitely hoped — that she would hang in there for awhile longer, perhaps at least through the holidays. But on Wednesday night I came home and she didn’t greet me at the door. I turned to put my stuff down, and I saw her like a shadow, sitting alone on the deck, in the rain, in the dark, looking dazed. I opened the door and asked her to come inside. She didn’t budge. I went outside and gently led her into the house. She stood by the door, tail between her legs, unresponsive. I thought she’d move if I moved; she always herded me through the house. I went to the bathroom, I went into my bedroom, I came back and she was still there by the door, staring into space. The only change was that she had sat down.
I wrapped her in a towel. My boyfriend carried her to the chair in the living room that she liked to lie in, to stand in and look out the window. Her chair. I sat beside her, trying to give her my warmth. It was 7:51 p.m. I think the vet is open until 8 on Wednesdays, I said. He called. They said to bring her. They would stay open for us.
I asked my mom, Do you want to come in case — I couldn’t finish the sentence. My boyfriend carried her to the car, and I drove her across town. I rolled the window down in the hopes that she would perk up and try to look outside. I knew deep down that I wouldn’t be driving her back, but I hoped I was wrong.
The vet looked at her eyes, at her gums. She was pale. She was dazed, as though coming out of anesthesia. She seemed tired, her blinking slow and sleepy. Her temperature was low.
It was likely one of the tumors in her liver had ruptured and she was bleeding internally. If I took her home, it was likely that she would bleed out overnight.
(Elapsed time 90 minutes, one x-ray and one blood test later.)
I sat with her on the floor, with her head in my lap. She was cool to the touch. I stupidly thought about movies where a guy gets shot, and his buddy holds him in his lap, tells him to hang on, and the dying man’s last words are I’m so cold.
It was time to let her go. I said okay.
The three of us stood around her while the vet administered the IV. I held her face in my hands and whispered Don’t be scared. You’re such a good girl. In her last moment, she turned and looked at my mom, one final check to make sure she was okay. And then she was gone.
The house is full of her absence now. There’s no more clicking of her nails on the hardwood floor or jingling tags on her collar while she did her rounds. Her water bowl is still full by the kitchen counter, untouched. The towel I wrapped her in on Wednesday still sits in her chair.
I don’t want to read in bed anymore because she won’t curl up at my feet and snore. I miss her expressive face and her warmth and her snuggles. And I will continue to miss that, and more.
I will miss her kind, intelligent eyes and her big stupid grin. I will miss her impossibly delighted clickety-clacking happy dance when she was getting her leash on to go for a walk or ride in the car. I will miss her trying to charm every worker of every drive-thru into giving her a treat. I will miss her trying to herd me through my day and her huffy sighs when she couldn’t get me to go where she wanted me to go. I will miss her under my feet when I cook. I will miss her joyful scampering through the dog park. I will miss walking with her when she would look up at me, smiling. I will miss her getting up, turning around three times, and lying back in the exact same spot. I will miss so many things. I will miss her and I will miss her and I will miss her.
One day at the shelter a little more than 11 and a half years ago, we chose each other. We had an incredibly good run, and I’m happy for every minute of it.
But still, I am sorry that I didn’t know goodbye was coming so soon and I didn’t buy her one last ice cream cone.