I spent the last few weeks carrying my German Shepherd up the stairs at night. I couldn’t bear the thought of Tirowa waking in the night alone. He would surely try to climb the stairs to be with his people. He would fall, and be dishonored by his defeat. My once-heroic dog was reduced to a frail body riddled with cancer. However, his downy white coat covered the protruding bones with velvety softness.
On our last full night together, I slept downstairs on the floor with him. His breathing so labored, I worried he might not make it through the night. A part of me wished he would go quietly that night so I would not be faced with the task of driving him to the vet. I had spoken to Dr. Latta the day before. They had special hours set aside for when we humans have to undertake this last step in our furry companions’ lives. I had been patiently waiting for some sort of sign from Tirowa that he no longer wanted to go on. But that sign was not going to come without horrific suffering on his part. Tirowa just wanted to be by my side silently and adoringly. It was now my job to be strong.
I knew that my beast of a boy hated the vet’s office. He would shake and cry in the waiting room, and climb in my lap when Dr. Latta entered the room. He refused her biscuits. But Dr. Latta had taken care of my boy for the last 12 years with kindness that one does not often see. She rushed in after hours to stitch his wounds with just me for an assistant. And now, Tirowa and I would be making the journey to West Chester one last time.
There were two conversations I was trying to avoid almost as much as the evening’s appointment. I would have to call Seth in Cooperstown and tell him. And I would have to tell my girls. I thought about trying to shield them from the pain, take the dog after they went to bed. But I recalled my own childhood emotions when faced with loss. I always felt guilt for not saying goodbye properly. So this I granted them—Kaya to her long-time guardian and Marley to her playmate. They took it harder than I had imagined but Seth was strong for us, trying to gently calm the sadness.
On the drive to Dr. Latta’s, I pulled over in a quiet park. I sat in the back of the jeep with Tirowa, listening to music. I wanted to stay there, in the dark and peace, soaking up the sweet scent of his puppy feet for one more song. Don’t we always want just one more song?
He died in my arms, beautiful and loyal to the absolute end. Fare thee well my doggy….
Photo by Julia Gentile.