For any additional lightness in my pocketbook today, my heart is feeling many more times heavy.
I lost a best friend last night. A loyal companion. An intense playmate.
He was the one who loved it whenever I put my feet all over him.
He was the one who looked most forward to taking long evening walks with me next to his side.
He was the one who would chase me around our couches, then turn the other direction and run from me – always keeping me rolling in giggles.
And he was the one who would chase his tail just to entertain everyone else.
I guess you’d call him our “pack clown.”
Through highly intelligent eyes, he anticipated what I wanted from him.
Through a curious and loving heart, he didn’t always do what I asked him not to do.
And with that ridiculous tongue hanging out, his humor came through in his big canine smile.
Last night, as we were walking home with some of the rest of our pack, he began to wheeze. He veered from a well-known path, desperately trying to remain upright. Within seconds, he was retching and trying to regain his uprightness where he had collapsed. Our 2 T’s headed off to get the car, as I sat helplessly in an unknown neighbor’s yard, watching my buddy’s gums and tongue turn gray, as he strained to squeeze anything through his air passage.
We never saw it coming.
Forty minutes earlier, he and I had been doing the happy dance together. (I had come in from work and asked if he wanted to go on a W-A-L-K, which was my joke with my family – that he was so smart he could spell.)
Chief – that was our sweet boy’s name – ran to the rack where his collar and lead were hanging, jumped around in circles, then came back smacking his long tail into everything that managed to horizontally get in his way. As he saw me grab up my tennis shoes, he impatiently danced around some more, finally unable to contain his excitement, jumping up to “hug” me – just before he turned back and waited to be fitted into his own “sports gear.” He always got so excited about our family walks. He loved to explore, and he loved doing it as a family unit – a pack.
It seemed like it took years to get to the emergency clinic after the incident (since his vet was already closed by then). My oldest son left his ballgame to meet us there, instinctively understanding this would be the last chance he’d have for loving on his pup.
Although they intubated Chief the minute we arrived, that wasn’t going to get rid of the clot in his lung. We were told that he could remain on a mechanical respirator for $1,000 per day, but even if we could afford that, his life would no longer be his own.
Though we got to be with him as he was euthanized, he was already on so much medication to ease his stress, only we were the ones who were aware. Despite our prayer over him, it was a distressful departing. No sooner had we stepped out of one room, after saying our unworthy good-byes, than we were presented with a $400 bill, immediately due. Was that the closure then?
We’re all numb today – traumatized. We brought Chief home, so his remains can at least be close by. But that’s never enough, is it?
I want my friend back. Waking up this morning without him on his bed was disorienting. Driving through my neighborhood this morning, passing the sidewalk of our final journey together, was excruciating. I dread going home this afternoon, to abide in the obvious emptiness without his presence to greet me. My grief feels immense.
Yet, there is a Chief lesson that I’ve learned in this.
Grieving is important. It reminds us of the immense capability we have to love; the importance of sharing in that love as part of living. What would a relationship be worth if there were no pain in its loss?
Chief holds a special place in our hearts. I can’t imagine going on without him to brighten our days.
But I can’t imagine how much less our lives would be had we never had him to love in the first place.
A friend loves at all times…