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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Day My Dog Died

My dog died last Friday. She was to turn fourteen in December and had taken some serious downward spirals in health recently after bouncing back from a near-death experience in 2007.

Audrey was a Weimaraner, known among enthusiasts and Weim lovers sometimes as a grey ghost. She was beautiful. In January 1999, we drove home with her in a shoebox. She did all kinds of terrible things over the years, including eat wedding photos, a pair of Dansko clogs, a loveseat, and lots of food and trash (including two bags of candy corn that had her hospitalized when my daughter was in kindergarten). She ate my thigh-high stockings and panties. When we adopted a Goldendoodle puppy when she was about ten, she was sure to lead her little doggie brother into the same life of crime.

I had a lot of really big emotions surrounding this, but the worst of my feelings was the guilt of having left her behind when I divorced and moved into another house. I left her with the human dad and the kids who loved her dearly, so I wasn't abandoning her. But for years she had been my constant companion, always around when my ex-husband was out of town or out of the house, and when the kids were asleep. She would listen to me sing loudly and not complain. Eventually, as her health deteriorated, she would wake me several times in the night to walk around the block because she couldn't sleep.

I loved Audrey in a way a person can only love a dog. Anyone who has ever loved a dog knows what this means.

My ex and I had been discussing Audrey's health and what we knew was her inevitable death for a while. Our son, twelve, already knew what was going to happen because he asked his dad (for the record, we are both pretty terrible liars, and while we weren't upfront about it, we would have also been honest with our daughters if they'd asked). Friday morning, I drove the kids to school (early morning devotional for the girls, jazz band for the boy) then to McDonald's to wait for my dear friend who has been with me through every life change since 2005 to come pick me up (thank God she was there for me, because I wouldn't have been able to drive myself afterward).

The vet and vet tech who had treated Audrey since 1999 met us in an exam room to look her over. She was pitiful. Her kidneys had basically shut down and so her body was using her muscle for protein. This beautiful beast who had once weighed close to 90 pounds was now under 55 pounds and could barely stand on her own.

The tech laid out some soft purple towels for Audrey and we moved her to them. Dr. P had already explained the entire process of euthanizing a dog. He had loved on her and let her kiss all over his face. We were all crying, not just because it was the end of her life, but also because her life had been pretty remarkable (she'd survived several unusual illnesses that should have been terminal).

With Audrey resting on the cozy bed they'd made for her, Dr. P injected a sedative into one of her front legs. I have never seen an animal so relieved to relax. She gave us a few sleepy looks, let us stroke her ears and back and snout one last time, and then we left the room.

Telling my children that day was the most awful thing I'd ever had to do (I was not the one to tell them about my father dying because I had already driven to Montgomery). It was a wailing only heard of in Irish folk songs and war films. These babies have never known a life without Audrey. She was born before I even realized I wanted to have human children. They have another dog there to keep them company, Murray, who is sweet as heaven but dumb as rocks.

By Saturday they had already talked their dad into going to look at rescue dogs. Not to replace Audrey, really, but to fill that space. They've learned at such young ages that people and pets can't be replaced, but those needs for companionship and friendship can be met in other ways.

I think I'll always miss Audrey, but I am choosing to remember her young and strong.

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