I met him fourteen years ago, and loved him the moment I saw him.
He had big brown eyes (I'm not the kind of girl that falls for the blue eyed type), a great personality and an open heart. It was love at first sight, and ultimately he was a better soul than I, for he continued to love me completely and with abandon every moment that he knew me, even on the days that I was utterly undeserving.
While he loved me so deeply, his soul belonged to a different girl. A beautiful blond, with brown eyes that lead right to her soul. He slept up against her each night, their two bodies melding into one. As they aged, he became her eyes and ears, her signal to walk a certain direction or to come to greet me for treats. A beautiful girl who won't quit pacing right now, wanting in and wanting out, feebly trying to find the spot where she's certain he must be; her body jumping each time I touch her, her eyes squinting to see what she won't again. She's not known a world without him; I cannot imagine how frightening and lonely it must be.
He wasn't the smartest canine, but he made up for it in affection. In complete opposition to his wolf-like stature, his heart was one of the softest I've known. Only once did I ever see him bare his teeth, at my sister A when she came tearing up the stairs, yelling about something she was excited about. "He was going to attack me," she panted and I laughed at the absurdity of the comment until he showed his teeth to her again, this time, I'm certain, for my pleasure only.
During the course of one summer, he got into eight porcupines. Eight. (You can do the math on eight emergency trips to the vet). The final trip came after I rigged him up a run since I couldn't trust him to be alone in the yard. I came home that night, and he was pawing at his mouth. When I walked up to him, first I saw the porcupine lying there, then his mouth full of quills. "Simba, you actually met an animal dumber than you", I said as he hopped into the car, taking his seat on the passenger side, sticking his head out the window, probably dreaming of the buzz he was about to get from the pain killers.
Yesterday was the last day that he got into my car. I had to put his front paws in, then lift up the back side of him. He laid down and showed no interest in the window or the view outside of it. He walked slowly into the office, not offering a wagging tail as he usually did, gingerly stepping aside from the puppies straining to reach him from their leashes.
The vet was kind and considerate and tried to offer comfort to the best of his ability. I'd imagine it's very difficult to know what to do or say to a woman kneeling on the floor in the exam room, sobbing, rather wailing, and rocking her dog for the last time.
When he walked out to give us a few final moments, Simba's breathing was shallow. "Please quit breathing right now, please quit breathing right now, please quit breathing right now", I kept whispering. Anything to let the final decision not be from my hands, but of course it didn't work out that way.
He didn't even pick up his head when the needle was inserted into him. "I love you Simbers, Jessie loves you Simbers. I'm sorry, Simba." I watched his eyes as I held his face, hoping he could see and know how much I loved him, hoping that his last thoughts were of love and devotion.
I drove him to my sister's, where she waited to take him to the first home he knew, my parents. The home where my dad had spent part of his day preparing Simba's grave, near the stream and pond in the woods where he had once lapped water and laid lazily in the shade of the trees. They put him to rest there, my sister placing the picture of Jessie on his heart, where it will remain with part of my broken heart always.