I’m agonizing over our final hours together. Each tick of the clock splinters my heart. Through the halls of my anguished mind bounces the question, how do I say goodbye. How do I let go? How do I show you the love you’ve shown me? And how do I convince my aching soul that you are only a dog? An animal. Something meant to be loved for certain, but should it hurt this much? Am I out of balance to feel my world skewed at the mere thought of you not being in it?
You came to me in my darkest hour. I needed you so much. I thought I was getting a service dog for DJ but what I got was a therapy dog for me. I felt utterly alone when Mom died so Steve took me to the animal shelter to look for dogs who could be trained as a service dog.
I spotted you immediately as we drove up to the shelter. “Boy, he’s pretty.” Were the first words I said about you. With your red coat gleaming in the rare winter sunshine you barked as you approached me but we both knew you didn’t mean it.
Since you appeared to have the run of the place, I assumed you must belong to one of the workers there. While I talked with an employee, you kept appearing at my side and leaning against me. I was looking for a service dog to help DJ learn to walk so at first I thought I imagined you were leaning against me. By the fourth time, I at last got a clue.
Three days later Steve and I returned to the shelter with DJ in tow. I needed to see how you responded to him. DJ walked in with his little walker and you were called over. It took less than a second for you to size one another up before DJ let go of his walker, grabbed the fur of your neck and the two of you walked off. All these years later and that scene has never lost its impact.
The following day we picked you up at the vet’s office. You busted through the door and despite having, only seen me twice, and the fact that we were seated behind the door, you came out of, you came right to me. If anyone had any doubts before that moment removed them. You belonged to us and us to you. That’s when the memories began.
The first time we left, you alone you freaked out and literally tried to chew your way out a window, leaving broken teeth in your wake. You thought it was your mission in life to rid the world of cats. You have such a huge personality behind your big soulful eyes that I never knew existed in an animal. You were well behaved, easily trained, but also sneaky. I didn’t have to say a word when I caught you on the couch. You always climbed down slowly, head, and tail as low as they could be indicating you felt like the lowest of life forms. You were funny, oh so funny. But more than all those things, you possessed an uncanny ability to tune into the emotions and stability of your surroundings.
I will never forget when two stray dogs came loping down the street, tongues hanging out of the sides of their mouths completely happy. All they wanted to do was play. You were fine until Colton got upset because he’d had a previous bad encounter with stray dogs. You sensed that fear and put yourself between Colton and the dogs, letting lose a ferocious growl that scared even us. Like cartoon characters those dogs came to a screeching halt, running away never to be seen again.
While training you as a service dog I had to connect you to DJ. Neither of you were pleased with the idea. But as was your custom, regardless of how mad DJ got you stood your ground. You did exactly what was asked of you and then some. You took your service dog job very serious.
In those painful lonely days after mom died, I would hug your neck and cry all over you. You never flinched. You simply sat there soaking up my pain through the tears that fell upon your neck. And now here I am again. This time there will be no crying on you because the pain is the loss of you.
I know when we walk in that vet’s office tomorrow you will be scared and I hate that. I despise that your final moments will be spent in a place that frightens you. I know you’re going to look at me with confused, hurtful eyes and wonder why I am doing this to you. The answer is simple. You have given so much to our family keeping nothing for yourself, how can I do any less by you?
In a little while, I will go to bed and the dreadful day will be upon us. I will take that long final walk with you and endure your questioning eyes. As the lethal drugs flow through your system stopping your heart, they will do the same to a part of me. A portion of me will die with you and I don’t regret it because I have had the privilege of not just having a good dog but having a heaven-sent dog. There will never be another like you and I am a better person for having you in my life. Well, done my good and faithful servant; well done.
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