Today, we put down our nine-year-old dog.
Yesterday, my sister told me she’s “two words from crying.” She said it with a watery voice, and I had to choose my next words carefully so they weren’t the two she hoped not to hear.
Two words from crying. Not me. I’ve heard two certain words so many times in the last few weeks, they lost meaning. No, “I’m sorry,” didn’t do it for me. For me, it took three words:
“He loved you.”
My crewmember meant the best, but it didn’t stop the tears from spilling down my cheeks. I fled past the exit row, past perplexed passengers, took a moment’s refuge in the aft galley. I crushed tissues against my eyes and hid behind the emergency equipment, bawled in shaking silence while passengers chose their seats like nothing was wrong. To them, nothing was.
He loved us. I know he did. It was apparent every time he greeted me at the door, tail wagging. Every time he scratched the wall and boofed for his dinner. Every time he curled between our legs on the couch.
Such a womanizer; he always got between our legs.
He loved us. He was my dog. I found him in a real newspaper ad, if you can believe it. My mom and I piled in the car and drove an hour to dusty Peoria, “just to look.” And then we held him and he was so tiny and lovable and we didn’t even have to talk to agree he was ours. I shoved $100 into the woman’s hand, and we smuggled him into our car.
His name was Cloud. We’d stricken that from his record before our tires left her driveway.
He loved us. But wow, Kaylee didn’t. She was seven at the time, and overnight he turned her into a crotchety old lady. He spent his days following her like the lovesick puppy he was. We brainstormed a name. He wasn’t cool enough to pull off “Shadow.” But Tagalong… that had a nice ring to it.
He loved us. Right up until the end, I know he did. We watched the decline, clinging to the thin hope that “acute liver failure” wasn’t as horrifying as it sounded.
It was. It just took a few weeks.
He loved us. Right up until we walked him into the animal hospital. He was lethargic, short of breath, but wagged his tail like he was fine. We knew he wasn’t. He loved us, and trusted us, and we held him as he went.
He loved us.
And god damn it, we loved him back.
Why wasn’t that enough?
December 2008 – February 2018