On Tuesday we took one last trip to the vet. He had been quiet and developed a sore on his mouth over Thanksgiving. He still woke up before I did, kept me company in the bathroom as I got ready for work and he still greeted me when I came home each day. As I studied for my class he always slept near me on the couch; if I woke up at night, I would find him nestled at my feet.
We had made this trip multiple times before. Each time there was an ointment for a sore, a tiny tablet for elevated blood pressure or drops for itchy ears. Each time we came home. With those memories fresh in my mind, I didn’t spend extra time with him on Tuesday.
The sore was an aggressive tumor. We were offered pain killers and antibiotics if we wanted more time. Of course we wanted more time but we didn’t want him to suffer.
I spoke softly to him, stroked his fur and stayed close to his face. His eyes stayed focused on mine until the drugs fully set in.
He came home with me when he was five years old. He was happy to escape the shelter but he had been neglected and possibly abused. The skin around his neck was raw where he had outgrown his collar which had to be removed by a vet. I found that if I approached him with anything in my hand, he would hide under a bed for hours. For years, he devoured his food as if we would not feed him again.
He moved with me a few times, becoming more friendly, relaxed and playful. He worried less about food, he would lounge wherever he wanted and whack our legs as we walked by when he wanted to play. During some of the worst and some of the very best times in my life, he was there. He always knew when to seek me out and snuggle closer.
The house is too empty and I haven’t established a routine without him yet. The pain of loss is strong but I am tremendously grateful for each moment I had with one of my best friends.
Rest in peace, old man.