When I say I lost my best friend, the censoring, judgmental part of my brain wants to jump – He couldn’t have been your best friend; he was just a … – before I cut it off. I don’t want to hear those words. I can’t hear those words.
I’m what society labels an introvert (I only play an extrovert at work!) and with that, I take pleasure – a great deal of pleasure, in fact! – in just being. Not the art of talking and finding the right set of words, to go along with another right set of words, to encapsulate that thought or feeling; yet, only rarely truly describing that thought or feeling.
That I can just be, without the requisite of conversation, is more than simply content; it is bliss. How I would prefer to spend each moment of this experience called life. Taking in the canary yellow, emerald green, and fiery auburn hues of the leaves painted across the landscape of my suburban world. Or the chill of autumn that attaches itself to your bones, leaving you wishing you had worn a heavier jacket on the morning commute, when the weather has begun its descent from summer to fall. Or the oddly-refreshing sound of lawnmowers and blowers, trimming blades of grass, whisking leaves into never-neat-enough piles. By nature, I prefer to just be…and let the conversation, if we must or ought to have one, come later; well after my senses have absorbed my surroundings. That is where I find my boy.
He looked at me with his eyes, and I could not – still I cannot – decipher or detect what he wanted to convey. Was it, oh geez…I’m embarrassed. Or, was it, simply, fuuuuck. Was it, help. Me. Or, was it, it’s time.
It could not have been the latter; I’ll never accept that it was the latter. He wasn’t one to give up.
During home renovation projects, I remember contractors joking that he would bark from the time they arrived, until the time they left. No, he did not simply give up. And I, as his leader, failed him because I did not keep that same promise. I gave up on him, like just another animal here to sooth my time, or my ego, or my sense of doing something noble in the world. Not once did I consider, what if he beats this? What would 3 more months of life mean to him? What would it mean to me? How much is 3 more months of life even worth?
Instead, I agonized over the pain he would suffer. Middle of the night trips to the bathroom. Diarrhea we could only hope to have cleaned well enough. Vomiting. Inability to climb stairs. His back legs going. No appetite, no bark, no tail wagging. All pouring into the pot of my stew brain, until the raunchy aroma forced me to consider: Was it time? No, it couldn’t have been time. I do not, cannot accept that it was time.
He liked to nap by our rear slider, when sun rays beamed through the glass door, filling the family room with warmth. Sometimes I would lay next to him, and just when he finished repositioning himself, I would snuggle my nose in the thick fur of his neck while trying not to disturb him, but selfishly knowing I already had. I would kiss his floppy ear, and whisper, you will always be the boy.
What is time? Our humanly way of measuring when we ought to stop, then go. In what instance is one thing just; when, in another instance, it is not. Time only has the meaning we place on it.
Surely, I would have slept on the couch, just to be near him, spent one more moment of time to be with him, until he could not move. Would not move. Did not move. I would have cleaned my house, and then cleaned it once more, if it meant picking up after him; for, at least he’d still be here.
And here is what he ought be. Next to me; rather, me next to him. Not giving up. For, he didn’t give up on me.
There was no pressure. The decision was mine to make. And I made the wrong one. For my boy. Who is at peace now. But peace from what? A bad day? A flare up? A stress-induced car ride, followed by a stress-induced visit inside a brick building where he got poked and prodded and taken away; brought back after being poked and prodded? I made that decision. Me. I decided it was his time as though I was bestowed Godly powers. But how can one play God, with an already-perfect companion? So, it hurts that I was the one who got to decide it was time. And now time is the one thing I cannot get back. Get enough of. Wish I had again. To be with him. My boy.
You don’t get to tell me he was just a dog. His love was uncompromised and unabashed and unparalleled and un, yes, unconventional at times – like that one time, that is funny now, when he climbed his paws on the kitchen table and ate part of my son’s birthday cake, which my wife spent hours baking for our son’s upcoming birthday party; or the time he ate the sweet potato pie my mother baked for me, my one semblance of Thanksgiving during the year we had dinner at my in-law’s. Hysterical now. blasphemous then! =)
More than anything, his love was unconditional. A state to which I will spend the rest of my life aspiring. That, bad day or not, I will great you with the love and enthusiasm and affection as if you were gone for a lifetime. That thing I did the night before that had you irate was a lifetime ago. The only moment that matters is the one we are in, now. That day we spent hiking was perfect and we ought to have more just like it. And I sit here, wanting for time, wishing I could be a little less like me, and a little more like him.
Before leaving for work each day, I would give him with a treat, and as he chomped the doggie biscuit, I would scratch his neck and kiss him on the head. I’d tell him, bye boy, assured that his tail-wagging greeting would be waiting for me, just after a day’s work.
Damn, what I wouldn’t give for just one more of those run-of-the-mill, ordinary goodbyes.