15 August 2009
The Edge of Goodbye
"There isn't anymore that you can do for her, except care for her. She will probably have a couple of good months left." The vet paused as though she expected me to speak, but I couldn't. "Call me when...call me when you are ready." I nodded my head and smiled, the salt of my tears burning my tongue.
"Let's go, Beauty Queen," I nudged her and she peered at me, rising slowly, but still with the wag of her tail.
I carefully lifted her into the back of my car and then got into the driver's seat where I swore that my devotion and love would somehow make this story end differently.
Of course, now, I know that it won't.
I don't know how to begin to tell you her story, the beginning was so long ago. She came to me a stray that was about to put down for her lack of the ability to be housebroken. I took one look into her eyes and called my college roommate, asking her permission to bring back another dog. She laughed and said, "God, Jenn, you're such a sucker." She never had an accident in my home, barring the occasional upset stomach.
That was sixteen years ago now.
She has been with me through the birth of my children, the loss of loves and hopes, through moves almost too numerous to count--always, literally, by my side.
She cannot rest unless she is resting against me. If I leave a room to go and get a drink of water, she follows. She has always been as such. For sixteen years, probably my closest companion when you tally all the time and hours spent together.
Time has caught up with us two blond compatriots, and she is dying.
And in ways that I cannot find the words to express, so am I.
I know that the world is full of heartbreaking losses; of pains so deep that I cannot begin to imagine. I do not mean to belittle those losses; I just mean to try to express mine.
When we are outside, she now needs several breaks to slowly walk paths that just a year ago, she could have ran. Little A laughs and says, "Jessie's silly! She's shaking her legs!" when she stands alongside me, as I quietly whisper, "I know," and gently nudge her to sit.
I do not want to be the one to make this choice.
I know that I am the adult, that I owe her an ending of dignity and peace; you need not remind me of this.
Right now, I am tallying how many times I see her tail wag during a given day, versus how many times I see her stumble or falter. Today, out in the sun, she ran a little, a smile upon her face, and my resolution to tell her goodbye this week began to dissolve.
When I arise each morning and tiptoe over to her bed, I will be honest: part of me hopes that she is gone; that she has peacefully passed in the night and removed from me the burden of being the one to let go.
"She is probably holding on for you, because she knows how much it will hurt you when she's gone," my sister told me this weekend as I sobbed about the undeniable truth as Jessie paced anxiously alongside me.
The only thought that brings me any solace is that she will be united with her best friend; when he died two years ago, she paced the house, looking for him, nosing his bed repeatedly across the wood floors, standing in front of me, whining, crying, pawing my knees, begging me to arise and go and retrieve him.
God have mercy upon the person that suggests to me that animals do not have souls or know sorrow and joy and other emotions.
And so here I sit tonight; unable to picture my life without her and unable to deny that the end is near any longer. It is a feeling that brings me so much pain, physical and emotional, that it feels as though there is a vise crushing my chest.
I feel as though I should make the phone calls, summon my family and friends, tell them that they have little time left to say their goodbyes. I feel as though the world should stop, if but for a moment, out of respect for all that she was to me and my loved ones over these past sixteen years. I feel as though a child again, not understanding this thing called death and being beyond consolation at the news that someone that I loved will never be again.
If I could choose her ending, I would choose a sunny day with the birds singing and the breeze blowing gently, tiny ripples darting across the pond. I would be holding her and whisper my goodbyes, reminding her of all that she has meant to me. She would be surrounded by my family and friends, and she would go peacefully into the next world as she leaves a void in this world that I cannot imagine filled.
And I sob tonight because I know that I can choose that ending for her.
And I sob tonight because I know that I must choose that ending for her.
And I sob tonight because I know that that day is very near.
And already, I am not the same.