Our almost-12-year old beagle, Bowie, is very sick. Every day lately seems to present a different challenge, moving him further away from the hearty health he’s enjoyed for a long time. We tried to treat his cancer, it proved resistant. We took the cancer out through surgery, it still spread anyway. He got an infection from the surgery. It was dealt with, but then he stopped eating as of two mornings ago.
It has been a very tough summer. For him and, thus, for me, since he and I are attached at the heart. I know dogs don’t live forever, I never expected him to, but he’s not yet 12. For some reason I thought we’d have him for a solid 14 years. I don’t know why I thought that. Wishful thinking, I guess.
Every doctor and specialist assures me that he is not in any pain yet. But I can feel that we are quickly nearing the point where he might be, and I have always promised myself, and him, that I won’t ever let him suffer. It wouldn’t be right, since all he’s ever given us is love and (mostly) joy. So my heart has been very heavy, especially in the last three to four weeks. Every time anyone brings up his health, I feel a tightening in my chest and throat, a sort of anaphylaxis that comes over me, and I can’t breathe. I may need to start wearing a tee shirt that says: “PLEASE DON’T ASK ME ABOUT MY BELOVED DOG AS I AM FAIRLY CERTAIN I WILL DIE OF SADNESS RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU.”
Today, to distract myself and get some endorphins, I went to the gym. While I was entering my membership ID number in the keypad, a woman at a table directly to my left chirped: “It’s National DOG DAY!!!!” I turned, registered that she was there handing out free samples of a new brand of dog food, and I started to cry. Well, “cry” is putting it lightly. Is howl too strong? Wail? I was audibly crying, the ugliest face-contorter of all the cries, and I couldn’t stop. I also couldn’t move because I was heave-sobbing.
This dog has a room in my heart, just a few doors down from each of my human-children. He was our first born, our internship in parenting. His impending death has brought up so much. It’s not just the end of his life, it feels like the end of part of my own life. The end of an era, for sure. Almost 12 years is a long time to love someone, something.
At the gym today, the dog food lady came out from the other side of her table and enveloped me in a giant hug and never asked me a thing, because I don’t think she needed to – maybe mine is the international cry of dog-illness/loss. She hugged me so tight, this total stranger, that her incredible kindness (of course) made me cry even harder. Eventually I stopped crying long enough to thank her, take the dog food sample bag, and usher myself to the bathroom where I tried to stop crying. Never caught the woman’s name, but damn, she has to be one of the best good samaritans out there.
I went on to have a decent workout, drove home, tried to feed my dog again.
After that, I put together these two side by side photos. Of my boy and me, on his first day with us. (I’m 27 in it, he’s seven weeks.) And next to it, a photo from today, of us, in the kitchen, after he eagerly, and surprisingly, gobbled up the dog food sample.