The night before, he staggered to the back of the house, the back bathroom, to lie down on a towel to die. I spent the night on a sleeping bag next to him, dozing, waking to feel if he was still breathing, my hand on his side or in front of his nose.
At daybreak he woke, and I carried him to my recliner, held him in my arms while we slept a few hours. Then he got up, heaved, and staggered back to the towel.
It was Sunday. We tried to keep him going with subcutaneous fluids every two hours, hoping to get him to the vet Monday morning for appetite enhancers to regain his strength. The fluids perked him up each time, but by afternoon I knew it was cruel to bring him back for two hours at a time.
So I held him, weeping, while convincing the family we had to let him go.
The vet had an hour to drive to his office. We were only half that distance away, so we had to wait a half hour before leaving home.
It was a miserable 30 minutes. As his kidneys shut down, he heaved again and again, and I cleaned him up each time. I gave him an injection of muscle relaxer, and then Jennifer drove, while I held him in that towel, and Kate cried in the back seat.
An IV injection. He was gone instantly.
Jen drove back, and I carried him to my study, to prepare for burial. But I could not put him down. The feel of his fur. The softness of his ears. The familiar scent when I buried my nose in the scruff between his shoulders.
Christine brought over a wooden box with hinges, a latch, and bright colors all over. I laid him in, fur wet with tears, on the towel with his favorite stuffed toy, ragged from years of play, and covered him with the tattered Spider-Man blanket he always lay on in my lap. His collar went atop, with one each of the two treats he loved.
Then I went out to dig a hole in the front yard.
I’m 63. The temperature was 89. Christopher allowed me to dig the first foot of hard, dry Nebraska clay, then he let me help him finish it. I lowered the box in, Jen & Kate said their goodbyes and crumbled a clod each, then I shoveled the rest and reset the sod.
Next month we’ll plant a red maple nearby.
Today I went out to sit by the grave with a shot of tequila and tell him thanks for unflaggingly caring for this family, for choosing me as a four-week-old puppy (another story), for having a few annoying habits so I wouldn’t feel like I couldn’t measure up, and for trusting me so utterly.
My grief has shifted a bit, from what I’ve lost, to the grace of letting him go as my final act of love.
That’s the best I can do for now.
Thanks for listening.