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Dear Dog,

It’s been two days since you died quietly in my arms, your tiny body softened and released from the gruesome, final seizure by a hefty dose of Valium, which I so wish I could have shared with you. Yesterday, at home, the sight of your empty crate in its corner and your little bed lying next to my desk was something I needed to see for just a little while longer. To keep you there, just a little while longer. To remove them seemed profane; the casual disposal of your whole amazing little life. This morning I moved them to the basement. Their crushing emptiness was suddenly unbearable. I’m sorry I moved them. I had to.

You were not a perfect dog, or even a terribly good one by most standards. Your unfathomable cuteness masked a tiny, terrible, tyranny. You were willful, demanding, disobedient. You were called – by three separate professionals – “untrainable.” Two of them gave me my money back. One kept it, for her trouble. You were smart enough, certainly, to be housebroken, but not solicitous enough to bother. You were not clean. You were not well behaved. You were not easy. My love for you was not always uncomplicated.

But towards the end it was – uncomplicated, that is. You grew so old that your eyes saw nothing but the milky darkness that took them slowly over. Your ears heard nothing. But still you looked for me, still you listened for me. You never listened TO me. But you listened for me. I was your universe. My love and attention were all you ever wanted. The constant, huffy mutiny in your little soul came from having to share me with the others – I get that now. I’m sorry you had to share me. Because I never had to share you.

The 16 years we spent together were not easy ones. You sat with me through illness, mayhem, fear, and grief. So much grief. You tagged along without complaint as I schlepped you and the rest of the herd from state to state and home to home, running to things and away from things that I would never find nor escape. You did so without moping or punishing; immune to change because the only thing you really needed did not ever change.

As your body aged and grew frail, too tired and busted for the usual fuss and furor – I got to see the soul of you. I understood why you fought so hard your whole life to get to the front of the line. The other dogs and cats played together, rumbled and wrastled – needed each other as much as they needed me. You never did. I was what you needed – to be near me, with me, on me, under my feet. It was pretty fucking annoying sometimes, if I’m being honest. Being loved so fiercely, so unrelentingly. I’m sorry that sometimes I was annoyed by your love.

I think I did the best I could for you. To keep you safe and healthy and reassured, as much as I could, that I was there – always there. The choices I made for you were always what I thought to be the kindest, the safest and best – but they were not always. Sometimes they sucked. Sometimes I failed to notice that your nails were too long until they hurt you. Sometimes I took you everywhere with me so you would feel special and it only made you feel carsick. Sometimes I made you wear awful sweaters.

I let you sleep on the bed with me, nestled between my legs, until your very last day. Even after you could not see anymore – it was the one true joy you had left, and I could not bear to take it from you, even when I knew I should. I built little forts around you each night with pillows and stuffed bears so you would not fall. Sometimes you fell anyway, helpless to stop it and slamming against the hard floor with a thud I was sure would break you. Sometimes when you fell I was so scared and so sorry and so sad that all I could be was angry. I was angry only with myself, of course, but you must have thought I was angry at you. I’m sorry if you ever thought I was angry at you.

You peed and shat on the floor, sometimes a dozen times a day in the end. Diapers didn’t work – you always squirmed your way out of them or managed to get the shit half-in/half-out, making more of a filthy mess than if I’d just let you shit on the goddamned floor in the first place. I got mad. So mad, sometimes. I cursed and yelled in frustration that I was ready for this to be over. That I was tired of cleaning up your shit and your piss. That I had better things to do. I told myself you couldn’t hear me. I’m sorry I yelled anyway, even if you couldn’t. I’m sorry if I let you get too old. If keeping you alive because I didn’t want to let you go meant taking away your dignity (which, let’s face it, you didn’t have a whole lot of to begin with). I’m sorry that I lost my patience with you sometimes, because you never lost your patience with me. I’m sorry I ever thought I was ready for it to be over. I was not.

The house is too quiet. I can’t seem to stop crying and the others, they miss you. They lie alone silently, in different places, feeling the weight of the empty space you’ve left behind. They are working it out, as I suppose I am. Finding our way to the New Normal. We will be ok. But we won’t be the same.

There is so much I wish I did better. More of, less of. I can only hope you knew how much I loved you and that even when I did it terribly, I did my best. I hope you know, somehow, that so many of the choices I made – big and small, good and bad – were made for you. I hope that you knew I was there, holding you when you died. I hope that you could hear me say goodbye – if not with your ears, then with your heart. I hope you left knowing that you didn’t have to fight for my love – that you’d had it from the first second I saw you. I hope you forgive me for fucking it all up sometimes. I hope your life was mostly good.

Thank you for sticking around so long. Thank you for seeing me through the worst of times. Thank you for loving me.

Thank you for being mine.

Thank you.