Those that go, and those that stay
We put our dog down on Tuesday of this week. A month ago, we found out that she had cancer–no warning, nothing to tip anyone off except for a brief moment when her cheeks puffed up, the moment that prompted the trip to the vet. We’d all thought it was allergies, because she’d struggled with those before. And then my mother came back from the vet and called my sister and I, crying, as we wound our way through Dawson City and prepared for our epic ride across the Dempster.
“I have bad news,” she said, “about Roxy. She has cancer…everywhere.”
You hope with these kinds of things, as does anybody. Maybe it isn’t cancer, maybe the vet is wrong, maybe it’s just the heat, maybe she’s just old (but, I kept on thinking, but ten years old isn’t that old, is it?), maybe we just need to wait until the cooler weather comes back and she can relax a little and not feel so stifled by the terrible weather that we’ve all been having. Maybe maybe maybe, no.
That was a month ago, and now here we are. I wasn’t there when they took her in on Tuesday, but my parents were there, and my brother, and my mother brought her a ten pack of plain Timbits and fed them to her one by one.
This one is from Mummy, who loves you so much.
This one is from Daddy, who loves you more than you could know.
This one is from Alex.
This one is from Amanda.
This one is from Allison.
This one is from Aimee.
This one is from Adam.
This one is from the girls.
This one is just because.
This last one–this one’s from all of us. We love you forever, we will miss you forever, our lives will never be the same.
She laid down on the floor, my mother said, and put her head down just like she was going to sleep. It was peaceful. It was the best we could hope for, I suppose. Even the vet was crying.
I can tell she was loved, the vet said. You see so many animals here who aren’t–but she was, and I know.
I’ve been a mess for the last two days, more or less. Today I walked downtown and ran errands and cried at random moments. Last night I cried myself to sleep and woke up at 3am and cried again. I notice dogs everywhere. I notice the way that people love them, the way that they seek you out, the way they catch your eye and start toward you before being pulled back, no, no, you can’t say hi to everybody! All of those things. My mother got ready for work yesterday morning and went in to check Roxy’s food and water just as a matter of course and of course the bowls were gone, of course she started crying all over again. I’m going up to visit my parents this weekend and how is it going to feel like home now, driving up with no dog running out to greet me? My parents built their house in 2010–that house has never been without that dog.
We have never been without that dog, though of course we have, of course it will get easier, or bearable, eventually. But how do things get bearable again when the best parts of yourself are gone? She was a family dog–we are all older but the four of us were all living at home at one point or another while she was there.
The first day home, when we brought her in and the first thing she did was pee on the carpet.
How she used to fit on one stair as a teeny tiny puppy.
How she’d hop into the truck with my dad at a moment’s notice when he was going out to build the house.
That time when she snuck into my parent’s take-out box and ate half the pizza.
How you could sit beside her on the floor and pet her stomach for hours and she wouldn’t move an inch–except, perhaps, to wiggle closer, to open her belly up even more so you could rub and rub and rub.
I lived at home for a year after I came back from Scotland, and we went on walks every day. Sometimes I would watch her, sprawled out in the sunshine from the windows, and think: I am trying so hard to make my life be like that. No worries, just calm. Catch the sunshine when it comes. Catch the cool air when that comes, too. In between, just eat and drink and smile and love, and everything will be okay.
It’s taken me until now to really understand that. Almost six years of trying and failing and being sad and being excited and doing exciting things and not-so-exciting things, being happy, letting be. So much of this year in particular has been about letting be, and in ways direct and indirect I have this dog to thank for that. And now she’s gone.
You will cry a lot, a friend said to me, and you may cry for a long time. But this is a testament to love, and love is to be treasured. Remember: it is not the last months or weeks that define us but the whole of a joyful and loved life.
Oh, my beautiful girl. We will miss you so.