This is it.
This is it.
I wake up to pee in the hallway and clean it up before anyone sees. I know what Hal will say. Again. The same thing he said when we first rushed Coop to the vet. Not with his words but with his eyes, his questions...
"It's your call Bec, but..."
How do I make that call? How do I know?
I've been on and off the phone with the vet for the last three months.
Up nights letting him out. And then there were the days when he hid in the garage. Under the table. The tree...
I'll let him go naturally, I thought.
And then I went away and Hal called me at 5am after being up all night with him and this is it. NOW this is it.
But then I came home and he wagged his tail and ate his dinner and seemed okay.
"I think he's actually okay now. I think he's fine."
And everyone looked at me like I was crazy.
"You'll know when it's time."
But I haven't.
I haven't known it was time.
Yesterday I kept giving him cheese. I gave him cheese until there was no more cheese in our refrigerator because he likes cheese and kept eating it and at our BBQ I didn't tell him no when he ate Revi's bun.
I've never spent "the last day" with someone or something before. Death tends to sneak up on people. It isn't something to be made in an appointment book. But this was. We spoke last week and made an appointment. It was supposed to be Saturday but I wasn't ready. He seemed okay on Friday. Bad day, good day, good day, bad day...
When we ran out of cheese I have him the leftover turkey burgers and then bread. He hasn't had an appetite in weeks but yesterday he ate and ate.
Maybe he knew. Maybe he knew because I told him because my mom and my sister told me to tell him, to talk to him about it and to sit with him so I did.
"Here's cheese. I love you. We have to say goodbye now."
He belonged to me and someone else. A man I deeply loved and lived with and was engaged to.
And even though it was a lifetime ago and we haven't spoken in years, I felt like I needed his blessing. To make this decision. Because eleven and a half years ago we made the decision to get a dog together and he drove my car while I sat in the back seat with our puppy and isn't this exciting? We're starting a family together.
We broke off the engagement six months later.
He moved out.
I kept the dogs.
My cousins were here over the weekend, one of whom shares a name with my ex... And upon seeing Cooper, he gasped.
"He's pretty bad. You have to let him go."
He explained that he had to recently put his girlfriend's dog down. And that his childhood dog was going through the same thing - the same accidents and falls and inability to control his body... the end.
"He wasn't anywhere near as bad as Cooper," he said.
I explained to him that he was having a particularly bad day.
I needed his blessing.
I called the vet immediately.
He was a puppy when we brought him home. He had a heart murmor and we were told he'd likely live a short life.
"You might want to trade him in for a different puppy," the Vet told us. "This one might not make it through his first few weeks.
I never went back to that Vet again.
Fuck you, Vet.
He lived nine lives since then. Recovered from Cancer.
Was given six months to live and then lived six more years...
Today was his half birthday. He was eleven and a half.
The kids were fine. They said their goodbyes weeks ago when we thought, for the second time in two months, that this was it.
And then I called the vet and changed my mind and no he's okay! He's going to be okay!
The mom who cried wolf.
He's not okay.
This morning they said goodbye on their way out to school.
They were okay.
Yesterday was perfect. Friends came over and I haven't seen Cooper happier in months. He went so far as to eat table scraps and lick BBQ sauce off Revi's face and he followed us around and I thought, oh he's fine. See? He's totally fine.
Because yesterday he was.
Yesterday I fell asleep with him in his bed with his paw over my shoulder which is what Boxers do when you sleep with them.
He used to sleep with his giant paws over my shoulders every night when I was twenty and twenty-one and twenty-two and twenty-three.... And some nights I'd wake up on the floor because there was no room for me because he'd sprawl his giant self sideways and okay fine, dog. It's yours.
I'm packing right now and Cooper isn't beside me. He is. But he isn't. But he is. But he isn't.
Hal drove us to the vet this morning and I got to sit in the back seat with Cooper like I did all those years ago when he was a tiny puppy and I was a tiny puppy and everything is different now... And I held his paw and told him I loved him and thanked him for being my first baby - for all those nights he slept with me under the covers and all the years he watched over me - through a very dark period in my life and then back into the light.
And I mourn all that darkness and I mourn all that light and all of those years hiking trails with him off leash and windows open in the back of the car and how I'd bring him and Zadie with me to Hal's house in the summer and we were always a team. What will Zadie do without him?
The timing could not be worse.
Or maybe it's just right.
I could not have left him the way he was.
I would not have been able to say goodbye if I didn't have to.
I couldn't have done it.
Life has a way of pushing us up against deadlines, especially those of us who struggle with them. I mourn our first moments together in the back of my car and the last ones, at the clinic with his head in my hands. I wonder how people do this. How my mother did this with our dog, Dexter. How my friends have done this with their pets. How every day people say goodbye to each other and the creatures who take care of them.
Zadie will spend the next week and a half with my aunt and her dogs. Familiar faces and creatures who love her and I'm so grateful. I'm grateful to Hal and my mom for driving halfway between our homes to meet and my dad who cried with me on the phone. (He loved Cooper most of all, I think.) I'm grateful fort all the years I got to spend with my dog - my first baby. I'm grateful I got to be with him until he took his last breath - that he will no longer feel pain...
It was time. I know it was time but it's still terribly hard. Heartbreakingly hard.
I'm sitting here on my laptop surrounded by a thousand suitcases and I don't know where I'm going. What's happening again? I feel wrecked and I don't want to move and it's Fable's last day of preschool and Archer's last day of 2nd grade and I'm supposed to bring cupcakes and flowers and cards and I'm sitting here writing this and what the fuck do I pack?
I don't want to pack.
Or leave this very square of wood. I miss my dog.
Even though he's here.
He will always be here.