I don’t believe there will be a reunion with my pets anymore than I will meet the angry cows I have consumed or the spiders I have squished. I wish I could stretch my heavenly conceits this way, because I can see the comfort in that imagery.
I am content to be grateful for every lick, wag,trick and cuddle my dogs have shared.
The toll for loving a dog is the certainty that we will be their ushers when their life is nearing the end. We pay with loss and sadness.And here I am. Heartbroken.
Milly died yesterday, and I cannot see the floor for my tears. I have thrown her bowl to the bottom of the trash, but I cannot clear her stuff yet. I cannot speak to my friends and family. I am awash with grief.
It took two years after Chamois died before I was ready to reopen my heart. Mabel was 5, and we have always had two dogs..a security measure so we will never be alone. I scouted her, begged the breeder for her, and drove to Wisconsin one day after a European trip to bring her home. She was Marshview Kennel’s Fergie, from a litter of F pups. By the time Steve and I reached the Illinois border, she was Milly. Milly and Mabel- my bookends.
She had a ridiculous underbite that didn’t show up until her big girl teeth came in. Mabel hated her immediately, crushing her snout so she wheezed until the day she died. She was not a looker, but more of a Muppet dog. Her spirited heart was uncrushable. Almost. Soon Mabel was curling up with her, chasing balls with her, and tolerating the competition. Mabel remained the Alpha, despite the fact that she is now 14, tumorous and arthritic. Milly’s kind soul dictated that Mabel could dwell in the glory days where she was first to get the frisbee. But at night, Milly would amble up on the bed that Mabel cannot conquer, and she would let the Old Dog know that she was making accommodations. Mabel appreciated the deference.
Milly let me dress her in Halloween Costumes, wore a Christmas collar with bells, allowed me to experiment (badly) with dog grooming clippers and never snapped at a baby- even if that baby had a death grip on her whiskers. Henry has a hard time napping, and she would nestle in with him and keep him company while he slept. No door scratching, just snuggling for her. She could locate a candy wrapper in any paper basket and loved strewing all other contents to get her licks in. She was an accomplished counter surfer with a preference for starch. Eight hot dog buns would evaporate in moments, and she did not leave a crumb. If only she had learned to hide the bag, her thefts would be the perfect crime.
Two weeks ago I pulled the attic stairs down to grab some items for Pat. Steve was in California, and so at bedtime, I called to let her out. No Milly. I called like a shrill idiot, opened all the closets. I phoned Pat to ask if he had let her run away before he drove off. I envisioned her being hit by a car (premonitions of death?) and started dialing the police to see if there had been a pick up. Then I thought to pull the ladder down, and voila! Milly almost leapt from the opening. She had not barked, whined, scratched. Because she was Milly, happiest dog in the world, and she was sure I would come for her. That is a pet for the ages. my happy little girl.
She never had a crabby day. She followed me everywhere. Her love was unconditional. She forgave me the days I forgot to feed her, the rough brushing I had to do after periods of benign neglect, incarceration in the attic, sequestration from toddlers. Mostly she forgave me when I went away and left her without her favored playmate, me.
Sunday, when I came home from a weekend away, she did not bound into my path. My heart rate ramped.
I made her some rice broth, gave her fresh water. She ignored the broth, sucked up the water and promptly vomited.
Steve ditched the Bears and carried her to the car. Countryside has a new Veterinary Clinic- I swear, I see the hand of God in its proximity. They were like angels to us.
Rapid diagnosis via ultrasound: Tumor, burst. Edema to compensate, filling up the chest cavity. Pained breathing, heart stress. As fast as they could drain the fluid it filled up. She was too weak to wag.
So we did what we are charged to do- love her, let her go. We held her, nuzzled her, she went to sleep. It was peaceful. It was awful. I am inconsolable.
Because Milly was a smile in every single day for the last 8 years, I am diminished. Steve and I are alone in the house; our rituals are interwoven with our pets. We rise and sleep on their schedule. We eat at the same time. They welcome us with the same level of adoration whether we have been at the grocery store or away for a week. She has been my roommate for months when Steve is in Florida, and she was excellent company.
Every motion I have made today is a lonesome move. One of her beds is at my feet as I type, with a telling biscuit left behind. She was too sick for a treat. Mabel has ignored it. Poor Milly.
Poor me. Poor Steve. Even poor Mabel, who goes outside and looks back expecting to see her curly little shadow. At almost 14, her date with destiny cannot be far off. Hell, we have to pave the stairs with Velveeta every night so Mabel has the will to climb.
I thought that typing this would make me feel better, and it has not.
Time will soothe me, I know that. I just needed to proclaim: my chipper little Portuguese Water Dog was a gift that eased a complicated decade for Steve and me. She was always by our sides, looking up with her crazy smile and dedicated affection. She loved the kids, she loved Mabel and she loved every moment of her day. (Mostly those with food or treats) She had puppy energy and bounce until the weekend she died.
So there’s that
Now I am U turning to California to disassemble Roger Dahl’s life- a human life. I feel squirrelly memorializing Milly before I have gathered words for Roger. Still, I have no guilt. Milly gave me about 3000 days of comfort and happiness. No matter how we scolded her, she never withheld affection. The simplicity of a dog’s love is affirming. I owe her a good send off.
And if, by some crazy chaos in the universe there IS a freaking Rainbow Bridge, dammit- I’ll see you there, Milly. I’ll have a bag of buns.