Dear Larry: I wasn’t ready, but you were

Written on October 2nd, 2016

Your tail wags and I can’t help but wonder if your pain is an illusion, if we are wrong, if your life is still happy enough to go on. The vet said that you have reached your average lifespan and I want to shout at her that you are not average, that you have never been average, not for one minute since the day we first welcomed you into our home. You have been there through it all. You have seen me grow from a five-year-old child into a 19-year-old woman and though so many things changed, your love for me never did. You were always there.

What am I supposed to do when you’re not here?

I hold you tightly and close my eyes and try to be strong. You have always known how to sense my sadness, and I don’t want this moment to be hard for you — I want it to be peaceful, welcome, full of love. You have spent 14 years comforting me, and now it is my turn to see you through until the end. You’ve done your job so well, best friend, but no amount of cuddles or treats or lazy evening walks could save you from the clutches of arthritis, cataracts, deafness, dementia. Organ failure or a brain tumor … neither option is pleasant. I thought my love could do it all, but it fell short. I could not protect you from everything.

I watch you closely and listen to your breathing. I am afraid of forgetting the tone of your bark or the way your paws sound across the floor when you greet me when I get home. I fear one morning I’ll wake up and won’t remember the shape of your eyes, the way curls of fur would sneak down to cover the edges of your vision. I’m afraid I’ll forget the way you chased us kids around the couch when we were little, so playful and free, always looking for the next adventure and the next friend. And as I think about my fear, I realize how utterly fearless you have always been. Every time you met a dog bigger than you, you’d run right up and stand on your hind legs and eagerly say hello. Every time we took you on walks by the river you had no qualms about diving right in, even after the day the current got the best of you and Dad had to come to your rescue. You are so brave, my little man. I wish I was, too.

My biggest fear is that this is the wrong decision. You have moments of happiness and they warm my heart. We had such a good day yesterday; little girls pet you and another dog said hi and we even shared some caramel apple because you could have whatever you wanted. I don’t want to steal your joy, baby. I don’t want to end it too soon. But the thought of letting it get so bad that you die alone and scared and in pain is unbearable.

We have all thought so long and hard about this, buddy. The tears have been plentiful and the doubt even more so. But I think we’re all at peace … and more than anything, we want you to be, too. I wish you could just tell us that you’re ready. Deep down, we know that you are, but it’s so hard to feel like we’re making this decision without your ability to give input. I hope you trust that we’re doing our best to be faithful to our love for you.

You are amazing, little man. Today my heart breaks like it’s never broken before. I think the truth is that not a single one of us is ready, even though you are. You have had 14 years and two months and five days of unconditional love and unconventional adventures and probably more people food than you ever needed, but we couldn’t make it last forever. I will always wish that we could.

My love for you can still move mountains, baby. I just wish the summit of this one was a little less misty. When you romped into a little five-year-old girl’s life all those years ago, she never could have imagined how important you’d be. Thank you for the laughter, the tears, the stories, the memories. Thank you for the cuddles, especially these past two days. Thank you for making my life more beautiful and wild and full. You are more special than you’ll ever know.

Goodnight, buddy boy. I know you’ll have sweet dreams, and good friends are waiting for you.

As for me, I’ll never be the same. I love you for that.

Your girl.