Dear Dutch

A letter to my rescue dog, a Keeshond mix, who died way too young
By Rick Reeves, February 2018, Updated April 2018
Dutch, 8 years old

Dutch, 8 years old

Dear Dutch,

This letter to you is so foolish. Even if you were still alive you wouldn’t be able to read it, let alone understand it. Yet…in your own way I hope you always understood how much you meant to me, how much I loved you.

It’s hard for me to fathom at this moment that you’re gone. Your sickness came on so abruptly, your death today was so sudden, so quick, so final.

On Friday when I returned from the hospital following my surgery, everything seemed fine. You were your usual joyful self, wanting to play ball, wanting to fetch. I felt miserable but you helped lift me out of my misery—even if the last thing I felt like doing was to throw you a yellow tennis ball.

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On Saturday you didn’t eat your breakfast. You barely ate all day. Then, late Saturday evening, you fell violently ill. I knew the signs. I wanted to deny them but deep in my heart I realized something was very wrong with you.

On Sunday you were listless, virtually lifeless. Your body limp. You had no energy, no strength. I sensed the worst and even had my mother come over to say her—perhaps—goodbyes. She loved you as much as I did, if that is possible. She wept over you, in your usual spot inside the front door. She wept in disbelief. Just Friday she had come over at midday to let you out in the backyard, while I was at the hospital. What had happened? How could things have gone so wrong with you so fast?

Sunday night you still lay by the front door when I went to bed. I should have slept downstairs, on the couch, to be near you. But, perhaps selfishly, naively perhaps, I went upstairs to bed with plans of taking you to the vet first thing Monday morning. I feared the very worst, as I say, but there’s always that one chance in a million…

Given your weakness, your illness, I will never understand or comprehend how you found the strength, the sheer willpower, to at some point in the night climb the stairs and take your usual place on the floor at the side of the bed, just below me. I remember hearing your nails scritch-scratching on the laminate floor and thinking you must be feeling better. You’d climbed the stairs! You weren’t so sick after all! I was deceived, deluded. It took everything you had left in your body and soul to make that torturous ascent and you never moved from that spot next to me, expiring at about 4:20 a.m. Monday. What a heroic effort! What loyalty! What love—your final ineffable display of it. It’s almost beyond human comprehension.

I would say to you, in closing, that I am sorry for your brief suffering, but…you are beyond that now, in the grave I dug for you, my best and dearest and most loyal of friends. I am so grateful you came into my life for your short—too short—stay.

Thank you.

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