I always knew that this day would come. Just like I knew that I would write this post. Writing always seems to help, for me. I had just hoped that it would come later. But, that was not meant to be. I guess the beginning would be a good place to start so that you can understand what I am talking about.
About 12 years ago we had to put our Alaskan Malamute to sleep. Of course our hearts were broken so we decided to get another dog, of course. I researched breeds and looked and looked and we came across a breeder of Yellow Labs in Picayune, Mississippi, so Rod and I drove down there to look. They were adorable. I had poured over names and there were 2 that I was considering, Thor or Atlas. Well, one puppy seemed to be bigger than the rest, bigger head, bigger chest…I told Rod that if we chose him he would be Thor, and honestly that is the way we were leaning. That is until the another puppy climbed up into my lap and looked up at me with his head cocked to one side as if to say, “Well, let’s go.” Atlas had chosen me. When I went back a few weeks later, Atlas was now the largest of the bunch. That would be a preview of just how much he loved to eat.
Time went by and Atlas grew. He was easy to train and fell right into our lives without a hitch. Everyone that met him loved him and he went nearly everywhere with us. If there were doggie passports for travel in the US, his would be very full. He was always by my side, or waiting for me to get home. He saw other dogs come and go but he always remained. He knew that his place in the family was forever. Well, as it often happens, I woke up one day and 12 years had gone by. Could the tiny puppy that I carried up a mountain in Tennessee be the same elder statesman who’s joints gave him trouble? Could the dog that once ate an entire frozen pizza in the time it took for me to make another trip out to the truck really be refusing to eat? Could the dog who was always there for me be getting ready to leave me. Sadly, the answer to these questions was yes.
When I decided to spend the summer in Michigan, it was a blessing for my old guy. Mississippi heat would have been too much for him to handle this year. And, deep in my heart, I knew that our days were numbered. So, we spent time sitting in the yard with the wind ruffling his hair. We ate bacon in the mornings and most of all, I spent a lot of time making sure that he knew how much I loved him as he steadily declined. We had good days, days we sat in the sun together as Oscar ran around nearby. This morning, we took a final ride in the truck and the nice lady vet made the pain go away. He got one good nap with no pain, maybe time for a quick dream, and then he was gone. I held him as I told him how much I loved him, what a good boy he was and that it was time for him to take a trip by himself. I told him to wait for me when he got there and I would see him soon. My heart is breaking, broken and aches so badly. I have cried an ocean of tears and know that more are on the way.
I knew that when I held him as a tiny puppy that this day would come. I knew how much it would hurt, but I let him into my whole heart anyway. If there are rooms in a heart, he has occupied them all. I would gladly go through all this pain again and again just to have Atlas choose me. I hope that I was the kind of person that deserved my dog, because he was the best. I will miss him for the rest of my life, even though I know that this pain will fade over time. I almost wish it wouldn’t.
Oscar and I headed to the shores of Lake Superior after I came back home. The skies were grey and the waves seemed to beat along with my pain filled heart. I know that true love carries this risk. I know that I will always choose to love, even if my heart breaks a million times. Just as I know that my baby boy doesn’t hurt any more. I know that he is waiting for me, I know that when it is my turn to go, he will be there, waiting for me like he has waited for me his whole life.
I know that this isn’t my usual kind of post, but this is life. Filled with Joy and Pain and Laughter and Tears. Not everything is roses and there are times when it hurts to go on. Just for today the world is a little darker, but the stars are a little brighter. God got an awfully good dog today and God I really miss my dog right now. And that is the way it goes. I will talk to you all soon.