Today I had to say goodbye to my friend. The emotion is still so raw that I cannot type those words without weeping silently to myself; it is midnight and I am afraid to go to bed. I fear the darkness; I fear sleep. I fear the freedom from distraction. I fear that going to bed will make the fact that she is never coming home, real. I have had horrible times in my life, I have experienced death before … but putting down the dog I have loved and cherished since high school was the most devastating moment of my life, and I will never be able to erase the memory from my mind.
Shelby was old, she was growing weaker by the day and the tumors were showing. Everyone knew that the time was coming, but our notion of it was “someday.” As in, the future. But the future came too quickly, and today brought it to our doorstep. I layed with her all night, tried to put all of my energy into her body with mine. I wanted her to know how very loved she was; I wanted her to feel it. I prayed to the god that I sometimes talk to when things get bad, to please please take care of her. Offer her youth, a field to run in. And I admit, I even prayed that she would go peacefully in her sleep so that we would not have to take her to the vet. I layed with her until the sun just barely rose up above the trees, and I made my way into my bed. I did not want her to see the pain in my eyes, or hear the torture of my cries.
When the time came, my mother, father, sister and I got Shelby into the car; we were going to surround her with the ones she loved and trusted. Seeing the excitement in her eyes, tail wagging frantically, I began the fall into guilt. We were leading her to her death, and no matter how long we had put it off, no matter how many people told us we were doing the right thing, I couldn’t help but feel like I was about to commit a horrible crime.
Entering the room at the clinic, hearing the soft words of the kind vet, we placed Shelby on the table and surrounded her. All of our hands placed on her head, telling her we loved her, how good she was. This family loved her completely, of that I am absolutely sure. The vet put the needle into her leg, and suddenly, Shelby went limp. We guided her to rest on the table’s surface. “Come to where she can see you,” my mom spoke to me, “She was closest to you.” I moved to directly in front of her eyes, but they were closed. I put my mouth to hers, ran it up along her snout. “I love you,” I whispered, “I love you.” This was the most real my life had ever felt, and it was heartbreaking.
Time seemed to go on for eternity, I held my hand over my mouth to stop the heaves. Every emotion was pulsing through my body, I didn’t know if I could take it. Of course I would though, we all would, for her. We were all breaking down in our grief, even my father was shedding tears … but we all kept our hands on our girl, until the very end.
When the vet said, “It’s done, she’s gone,” I let out a wail. I couldn’t even look at her. It wasn’t real. How could I have done this to her? How could I have betrayed her this way? I wasn’t angry with my family, for some reason, I was (and still am) only angry at myself. I was nauseous and devastated and so pissed off, I wanted to hurt someone or something, anything to make this pain ease. We had a few minutes to say our goodbyes before she was to be taken away to be cremated, so that we can spread her ashes on the coast at my grandparent’s house. I finally went back over to her body, her lifeless body, and kissed her forehead. One of my best friends, this girl was, and now she was gone. She may not have had the perfect life, but my family loved her and gave her a home that cherished her as more than just a “pet.” She, like all of our animals, was just as equal in our eyes to the human family members. Losing her was like losing a sister.
The drive home was painful, and walking into the house to find our other dog Bell frantically searching for Shelby, brought a new dimension to the breaking of our hearts. Even now, she is still pacing at the door, wondering where her best friend is.
Tears will shed from my eyes for weeks; I went to the vet today for Shelby’s sake, but I will never get that memory of her limp body falling to the table out of my mind. I am sure that one day, I will forgive myself for being the one that made the call to the vet, but today is not that day. I am sure that one day, I will no longer cry when I look back on my memories of her, but today is not that day.
I remember you Shelby, for being the one that always found a cameo role in the home movies we made … even though we hated it at the time. I remember you Shelby, for being the first one to greet me at the door when I returned home from my travels. I remember you Shelby, for sneaking into the food and eating the dinner off of my plate when I turned away. I remember you Shelby, for waking me up with your bark in the morning beacuse you were tired of me sleeping. I remember you Shelby, for being the most loyal friend that followed me everywhere … even to the shower. I remember you Shelby, and I hope so badly that, for your sake, there is a heaven waiting for you. That you are already there. I am so so sorry, and I will love you forever.