Tuesday, May 13, 2008

this post cannot convey the sadness i feel right now

I was 15. I'm not sure how it all started---the collective family desire to have a dog. We were a cat family first. Right around the time our last kitty passed away, we realized that the neighborhood was changing and not necessarily for the better. For that reason, owning a dog became a good idea. So my mom gave her ok and the search for the perfect dog began.

Eventually, after a couple of disappointing trips to the animal shelter, we answered an ad from a woman selling her german shepherd puppies. By the time we got to her home, one puppy was left. She was the runt of the litter, but she was ours if we wanted her. The lady called for the dog and down the stairs she came. She was a round mass of fur literally rolling down the stairs. Clearly, the puppy was a bit overweight. But she was happy and playful and so sweet. It was love at first sight. I know that's a total cliche. But there's no other way to describe what we felt when that puppy entered out lives. She was so chubby and precious. So what if she was the runt of her litter? She was ours now.

Heidi seemed to be present during many of my life's significant turns. She consoled me whenever a boy broke my heart. She celebrated with me when I got a full scholarship to USC. She exercised with me when I was trying to get fit. The thing is, Heidi was always there, always willing to share in the emotion of the moment, wanting to be a part of something big. Strangely, she was perfectly in tune with my emotions and always wanted to lend a paw to help me in any way she could.

When I moved away for college, it was really hard to move away from her. When my friends weren't available, I went straight to Heidi with my problems and she would always listen with a sympathetic ear. Did she understand me? Probably not exactly. But somehow she knew when I was happy or sad and sometimes the understanding look in her eyes was all I needed to get through. She always let me know that I wasn't alone. And now, here I was, moving away from her. What if she forgot me? What if every time I came home we would need to be reacquainted?

From the first time I visited home after moving away to go to college to the present, Heidi has never forgotten me. Over the years, whenever I return from a long absence, I am greeted by her happily wagging tail. It actually makes me feel pretty good that she still hasn't forgotten about me, even after I moved all the way across the country and only visit about 3 times a year.

Over the last year or so, Heidi's health has been deteriorating. At this point, her arthritis is so bad, she can barely walk. She moves so slowly and painfully that it breaks my heart. This last trip home was the most difficult. I nearly cried when I saw her. She looked old and sick. Whenever I approached her, she would get up very, very slowly. Despite my insistence that she stay down and that I would come to her, she still had that puppy sparkle in her eye. I knew she was excited to see me and the pain in her legs was no match for the excitement in her heart.

Knowing that this was my last time with her, I said my goodbye before I left. It broke my heart to do so. I wanted to be with her until the end. Somehow, I think this farewell was better for us. I did my best not to cry and instead pretended that this goodbye was like any other. I scratched and petted her until her heart was content. I offered her some treats, which she greedily took from my hands. When she became distracted, I walked away and didn't look back. This wasn't the way I wanted to remember her--the happy puppy imprisoned by her failing body.

What I'll remember is all the times she was there for me, all the walks we took, all of the games of fetch we played. I'll remember the tail that whipped around like crazy whenever I came home. I'll remember her cute puppy breath and her stinky adult doggie breath (which I was still strangely drawn to). I'll remember how she loved to hog my bed no matter how big she got. And I'll always remember the excited look in her eyes whenever we were together.

heidi pup

Good night, sweet Heidi-pup. May you have sweet dreams of chasing kitties and opossums forever.


Capitol Hill 20210 said...

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Author unknown...

Mme. Meow said...

Losing a pet is so tough. Just today Miss Gracie had her physical and I was thinking about how weird and sad and hard it would be whenever she's gone. I'm so sorry about Heidi.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry Lizzie. I lost my childhood dog when I was 13 and it was so hard.