When I took you to get your teeth cleaned, I had joked that it was a Christmas present for the whole family to not have to smell your stinky dog breath any more. Then the vet called to tell me that your pre-surgery blood tests indicated that your kidneys were failing and that we had probably just weeks before we would lose you. Instead of cleaning your teeth, they put you on IV fluids for the day.
When I picked you up that afternoon, all of the fluids made you plump and you were sassy as ever. The vet said she had to wrap your entire front leg to keep you from chewing out the IV repeatedly. But the kidney thing all made sense. I thought you had stopped eating and lost weight because your teeth hurt but it was because your system was full of toxins. But you didn’t know you were sick. You bounced around in the yard and barked because maybe a squirrel farted three blocks away. You wolfed down the special canned dog food I gave you that slows down the destruction of dying kidney tissue and then you had a satisfying nap on your favorite blanket.
That was five days ago. Since then I have had to add meat-flavored baby food to entice you into eating because the canned food with a bit of water is the only fluid intake you will accept. Your ribs are starting to show again. Once you stop getting fluids, you will fade quickly. I know I need to do the merciful thing for you and let you go before you suffer. And I’m not ready. The vet said that when the end begins, you will vomit and have diarrhea. Last night you threw up on my bed and I found out you had diarrhea in the house twice. But I’m still not ready to say goodbye. You have been my favorite dog for eleven years and I am just not ready to let go. But I have to.
I will miss the way you scratch at my hand to pet you—even when I am already petting you. I will miss the way you turn in circles and bark because you just know there is a reason to bark even if you don’t know what the reason is. I will miss the way you growl or bark and then melt and wag your tail when you realize it’s me coming through the gate. I will miss the way you have defended the front door against strangers with all six pounds of your mighty frame, shaking people’s pants legs and socks into submission, taking the greatest care to never actually bite anyone. I will miss the way the other dogs always do as you say even though you are less than half their size. I will miss the way you always find the highest perch in a room that you can and then “survey”from that vantage point. I will miss your displays of joy. I will miss your unquestioning loyalty and trust in me. And I will miss your crooked little smile and your crooked little tail. I am not ready to say goodbye, but I think probably you are.