I’m struggling with your mortality. All living things are also dying things…that’s just the result of metabolism at the most cellular level, and the only possible ending to all of our stories. I’ve navigated my way through the death of many loved ones and haven’t gone completely mad…yet.
But watching the gray hairs spread across your once solid black muzzle shreds my heart into ribbons. Your eyes don’t have the same animation and luster as they did a year ago, and they droop like you’ve pulled an all-nighter studying for your heart worm test (don’t worry, you’re going to pass because I give you the most expensive pill on the market). I can no longer discern the white “milk dribble” streak running down your chin because all of the hair is white now. You sleep more and eat less. Sometimes you don’t even follow me to bed and instead opt to sleep alone on the couch. Of course I call for you several times, my voice becoming more desperate with each plea. I feel so rejected in those moments that I often end up in tears, wondering how you can so effortlessly desert me after 6 years of being my ever-present shadow. Ultimately I wake up on the couch as close to you as possible and with a very stiff neck…a minor sacrifice I’ll make to be comforted by the lullaby of your steady snoring.
You’re the only reason I have for justifying my existence. It isn’t that you need me, but I need YOU. I have forfeited many nights and weekends with my friends to instead pass time rubbing your angry gurgling belly. I spend Friday nights counting your breaths checking that your respiratory rate isn’t too high, or making sure that you haven’t thrown up and aspirated into your lungs…again. I spend Saturdays hiding your toys behind pillows and under blankets to keep you entertained when it’s 97 degrees outside, and too hot to throw your Flying Squirrel, which you clearly love more than you love me! Sundays are set aside for mourning the fact that Monday is already upon us, and I’ll be separated from you for 9 hours a day. I smother you with attention and take you shopping at Homegoods and Marshalls for new toys. Have you noticed how I obnoxiously test everything with a squeaker to see which toys illicit the liveliest responses from you? Yes, this is how we pick out your stuffed animals which you immediately “kill” by pulling out their insides to retrieve the hateful noise maker.
Are you aware that I tried to make you the beneficiary on my 401k? I put in my own social security number as yours. HR caught it and made me change it, even after I argued that we should have the option of converting our 401k into a 401k-9…a fund to take care of our dog if we die. But nobody understands your importance in my life, except maybe grandma.
She worries about the day you’re no longer here almost as much as I do because she is well aware that you are my life support. You support my life and I support yours. If there is nothing for me to support, and nothing supporting me, then I see no reason to stay. Do you understand?
I have selfishly counted on you to provide me with everything that is missing in my life. And there’s a lot missing as you know. I can’t imagine coming home to a house absent of fur and the sound of your toenails tapping across the hardwoods. Yes, you are my tiny dancer! What will my yard be without your Frisbees and tennis balls scattered across the dirt? Who is going to alert me when an Amazon package is tossed on the front porch? Who will patiently listen to me whine about horrible coworkers? Who will provide the motivation for me to get out of bed and keep trudging through each dreary day of my life? Who will be the recipient of my adoration and love if not you?
Well then, it’s settled. You must live forever.