The black and white image above is the last picture taken of Singher, the gentle dog who shared my life for just over 14 wonderful years.
It was only in the last several months that her back legs and hips had deteriorated to a point that was problematic; a combination of arthritis and joint deterioration common to her breed. Her pain was manageable, but it became increasingly difficult as it required high doses of sedating drugs, often robbing her of energy and interest in the usual canine pursuits. She was also a very stoic dog, and I could never really know if her pain was at bay or if she was putting on a brave face.
But it was early on a grey, wet Wednesday morning, after making her scrambled eggs that I noticed Singher was having a painful and difficult time standing.
As air caught tight in my throat, my heart sank. We all think we will be ready for it. Ready for what it is you feel when your dog looks at you with wide, frightened eyes that don’t blink, her face pleading for you to help. What was supposed to be the moment where I would do the right thing, became the moment where the world entire heaved heavy. When it stopped, I knew what it was my dog required. For the last fourteen years it had been me who loved her, raised her, took care of her. And it was me who was going to have to let her go.
The next week would be her last. It also proved to be one of the best we ever had. I took the entire week off and spent all day, every day, helping Singher walk to her favorite park by the ravine, or simply rubbing her belly on the worn and fuzzy blanket when the walk proved too much. Feeding her Miso soup (yet another strange favorite) when she just didn’t have the energy to chew. And for three days we hosted what seemed like a never ending parade of friends, neighbors, and work colleagues, all coming to say goodbye and pay respects to a favorite dog. Chew toys and treats of every variety were in abundance; a literal canine Nirvana.
It was a good week.
O n the morning we had planned it, a Sunday, I opened the front door to a veterinarian with short, pixie hair, very Audrey Hepburn esque. Smiling what seemed to be both a genuine and appropriate smile for such an occasion, the doctor said her name was Margo, then introduced the other young woman as Alex, her assistant. I was a little unnerved, though relieved when both women offered hugs, then made a few casual inquiries, subtlety phrased to gauge where my head was at with all this. Margo suggested we dim the overhead lights, perhaps use a few soft candles instead. Then, very intentionally, two exceedingly compassionate women took time and loving care with what remained.
I am still in awe of how completely … normal it seemed, when a sedated, yet comfortable Singher closed her eyes and left the world, appearing to simply fall asleep.
Except, she didn’t fall asleep.
Blurry with tears, I managed to hold her eyes with my gaze until it was over. When she took her last breath, it was in my arms. And it was for the next several minutes I held her, content with a full awareness of what each of us had meant to the other.
Some time later, after the women had left and I was alone, I locked my apartment door and walked down the hall into the elevator. Hitting the ground floor I left the building through a rear bank of freight doors, stepping into what had become a bright and warm Sunday morning. One that Singher was never going to see. When my tears began as the enormity of it all hit, it felt like they would never stop.
She was really gone.
But, they finally did stop. And though I was exhausted, I was calm. Certain my role in her life had concluded in the most loving of ways. With a ruffle of fur and a kiss goodbye, I had let my sweet dog go, freeing her to a necessary rest.
October 8 / 2015
O n my writing desk, next to a pale grey soap stone carving, sits a small wooden box with a glass front. Inside, the paw print of a dog has been engraved into cedar. The comfort it provides is a small one. But it’s through proximity I am brought to random thoughts of a man and his dog; best friends for a time, each the others world complete. A brief, yet tender refuge of special, in a harsh, lonely world.
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In memory of
Singher Sept 2000 ~ July 2014