Yesterday we lost a dear old friend. I cannot even begin to adequately express the gaping hole her departure has left in our family. The whole thing has me tied up in knots. Her body was ravaged by a cruel disease (degenerative myelopathy) which made it challenging to walk or stand, she had lost tons of weight, and she had this orange-sized tumor on one of her hind legs that couldn’t be removed. As disease and old age slowly made her fall apart, we did the same emotionally. And yet the essence of Cali was still there: perked ears, handing me her front paw, those giant brown eyes. Making this decision was one of the hardest and most sucky things I will do. Forget Black Friday, this was our Black Monday.
And now, the aftermath: life without Cali. I’ve gotta tell you, walking back inside last night to an empty house was devastating. Our family, shellshocked, was out of tears. We all lost it in the car ride home. I don’t see how Clay could drive but he got us safely home. To a home that feels a bit less like home this morning. I write this to grieve her loss: to put into words the inexplicable bond that can be formed with a pet, the absolute joy and unconditional love they give so freely.
I miss her clicking toenails on the hardwood floors. Her scruffy bark, once so deep but raspy and weathered by age. I miss the way she would move into the next room just to be near us, even when moving was impossible.
What kept us going yesterday was talking about our favorite memories. Like potty training Cali during an ice storm. Playing football on Sullivan’s Island with her for hours. Or the times she ate Clay’s birthday cookie cake and our gingerbread house. Puppy kindergarten classes and teaching her that when food hit the ground, “Hoover” meant there was a scrap for her to have. Swimming in the river to get her tennis ball and screaming at her to get out because that “stick” near her wasn’t actually a stick but a snake. But mostly when I think of Cali, I remember outdoors and taking long walks and her retrieving tennis balls that we hit with a tennis racket. And her gentleness and tolerance of two little ones who tugged and climbed and played horse on her. I cling to all the memories and try to be thankful for the 15 years–that is an amazingly long time for any dog, let alone a large golden. But I won’t lie, this Thanksgiving will be tinged with a sorrow our family hasn’t known since our cat China died 5 years ago.
So when I imagine what she is doing in heaven, I think she is running top speed chasing a tennis ball before diving headfirst into a lake, then climbing out and flinging water all over the place. Jared said this morning that today’s rain is because she is splashing around in heaven. She is pain free. She is an angel now. My head knows we made the right call-my heart, not so much.
Play in Peace, sweet girl. November 17, 1998-November 25, 2013