I'm still in so much shock. He was such a happy, healthy dog. He had his skin problems and his constant itchy-scratching and his ear infections, but nothing that was ever life-threatening. From the moment I realized something was wrong to the moment I came home from saying goodbye to him at the vet--and we were there a good long time--little more than an hour passed. He was fine at four-thirty, and by five-thirty I was on my way home and he was gone forever. I just--I just keep saying over and over, I can't believe that just happened. I can't believe he's not here. Lucky got me through my parents' divorce--I'd come home from college on the weekends and just hug on him and cry and he'd just put his head on my shoulder and let me. He slept in my room, either on the floor at the foot of the bed or on the bed itself. He was a bed hog--I'd wake up and he'd be sprawled out in the middle of the bed, fairly large for an English cocker, and I'd have no room at all. If he needed to go outside in the middle of the night he'd jump on the bed and turn around in circles and lay his face down on the pillow beside me, and if I was slow on the drop and didn't get the picture, he'd run around and do it again. Whenever I went up the stairs, if he was lying at the top of them, I'd stop about three steps down and get on my knees and kiss his face--he was getting grey in on his muzzle, I called him my Grizzleface--and rub his nose with mine. He was also Sir, Lucky Sir, Big Sir, Good Sir, Good Boy, Pretty Boy, Smart Boy, Silly Boy, Fine Fella. My mother used to tell me, very quietly, that my grandparents wouldn't be with us much longer. It was, in fact, several years before my grandfather died after a long time in the hospital; my grandmother is still with us--came over for dinner with my great-great-aunt on Saturday, as you may recall. But ever since my mother tried to impress this idea on me, I always hugged them when they first came over and I hugged them when they left. Every single time. And I get irritable with my mother a lot, but every single time I hang up the phone I think about how that might be the last time I talk to her. Every time I walk into the room, I call all the dogs by name--"Hey, Lucky. Hey, Sam. Hey, Meko"--and I pet them pretty much whenever they're in arm's reach. Because dogs' lives are so much shorter than people's, so it goes double for them. So I always stopped when I went up the stairs and Lucky was there, I always petted him when I left the room--and he usually followed me wherever I went after that. He'd lie behind my chair, and I'd go to the bathroom, and I'd come out and he'd be lying in front of the door. He'd get up and lie down again rather than just wait for me all of five feet away. I loved that dog so much.
The shock is the worst part of it in this particular case, I think. That, and the fact that I was the one to find him, and how horrible it was to have him not respond and how limp he was when my stepfather picked him up. I always thought--I was actually thinking the other day--how he was so healthy, whatever took him would probably linger a long time, and we'd probably end up arguing over whether it was time to put him down or not--we wouldn't want him to suffer, but we wouldn't be able to bring ourselves to let him go, either. And I'd keep wondering how much longer we'd have--an especially long-lived dog could make it to nineteen or twenty, right? Right? He was only nine and a half. We'd probably have a good four of five more years together, easy. I had no idea we'd only have until today.
I know it probably sounds strange to grieve this much over a dog--my sister's fallen to damn pieces, by the way--when so many people suffer and die around the world. And yet so many people grieve so much for their pets--you know what I'm talking about, even if you can stand outside yourself and think, "This is insane." But I think I know why we do. The love between a person and an animal is so complete and total and flawless. It's not marred or confused or complicated by anything. You never fight with a dog. A dog never cheats on you. A dog never wrecks the car, or leaves you for another woman, or comes home drunk and hits you, or yells at you when you've had a bad day or paid the bills late. Sometimes dogs get a little irritable or even sulky, but they can't stand to be for long. They can't stand to have a cloud pass, they can't stand to think that you might not love them anymore. A dog is always there for you. A dog is always thrilled when you come home, as if he thought maybe you weren't ever coming back, and you were his whole life, but now you're back and everything's okay.
I heard him die and didn't even realize it at the time. He was sleeping, kind of breathing unevenly, and then he let out this rattling sigh. The thing is, he sighs in his sleep a lot. I heard once that dogs sigh when they're happy--I always thought his sighs sounded sad, kind of depressed, even, but I watched him for a while after I heard about that and realized he only sighed when he was happy and content. I'm going to try to remember while I'm over here crying that that's the last thing I heard him do.
Here's some pictures, in case you're wondering what he looks like. Yes, he's wearing his Talk Like a Pirate Day scarf from two years ago.
ETA: Thanks for all the good wishes and kind thoughts, y'all. I may or may not be back on tomorrow--bitching about a fever and a cold seems kind of trivial now.