There are tears in my eyes as I write this.
You see, instead of spending Christmas awash in the glow of lights and holiday cheer, I spent it in the parking lot of an animal hospital waiting to hear how my dog was doing.
It all happened so fast.
I never saw it coming. She was nine years old but didn’t look it. She still had a bounce in her step and other than a little grey around the muzzle she looked the same as when she was a puppy.
She still had the energy of a younger dog. She still could run like the wind until Christmas morning when suddenly her legs stopped working.
And then it all became so very, very real.
We rushed her to the vet.
And then we waited in the parking praying that it was something small and that she’d be okay, or at least there was something they could do.
But that call didn’t come.
She’d had a stroke and now my once majestic dog had neurological difficulties and her legs would never work and her breathing was labored. She would never stand again. Never run.
In the moments before we took her to the vet she exercised one last valiant effort and stood despite her legs hardly working. It was pure will power. And she quickly laid down.
We had the vet run extra tests to be sure.
I sat there hoping for a miracle.
It was Christmas after all.
But no one was listening.
I would have given anything to hear she’d be okay. I would have given every cent I have to fix her, to walk with her one last time. Heck, I would have given my left arm if they’d asked.
All I wanted for Christmas was for her to be okay.
But the world doesn’t work like that. In fact, the world has a cruel sense of humor. Just that morning while we thought she was sleeping. I would open gifts, new boots, and a new jacket, both for walking the dog. I was so excited for our next hike around the neighborhood. A walk we’d never take.
As soon as I saw her I knew what we had to do. It would be too cruel to let her keep going.
The decision to let her go was gut wrenching. In the back of my mind all that day I knew it was the likely outcome, but it still ripped my heart out.
I stayed with her till the end. She’s always been by my side, I couldn’t leave her in her last moments no matter how hard it was to watch. She went peacefully while being scratched behind the ears and told how much she was loved.
I’ll never understand why she was taken from me. On Christmas of all days.
If that’s not enough, to make matters worse, now I get to watch her little brother wander around the house wondering where she is. He runs to the door when someone opens it, peering between legs trying to see if his large friend has come back. Today he looked around the yard for his big sister, and there’s no way for me to tell him she’d never come back. He’s been sad since Friday, and I don’t blame him. He lost his best friend too.
I wasn’t even sure if I could write this. To be honest, I didn’t know if I could write anything right now.
Not only did he capture the heartache but he captured what the dog meant to him.
So let this be the eulogy for the greatest dog in the world.
Because that’s who she was.
It’s hard to capture that awesome creature in words.
She came to us a puppy. She’d been found in a garbage bag in Detroit, and she’d been returned to her foster home twice because she was aggressive. But she just needed the right spot. A little love and some patience did wonders. She went from wild animal to gentle giant in a few weeks.
And I do mean giant. They said she’d be 60–70 pounds, and that was the case for her siblings, But she grew bigger than all of them. She kept getting taller and taller. She didn’t have to beg for food, she could take it off the table if she wanted, and she tipped the scales at 130 pounds. She was massive, but fast. She was a terror to all small creatures that wandered into the yard.
Despite her size, she could run at speeds that would amaze you. She caught rabbits and birds, and nothing could get away from her.
It was like living with a large brown wolf.
She was fierce, loyal, and protective. Unless she was introduced to them, she wouldn’t let a person within 20 yards of her family.
And people kept away, as her growl sounded more like a tiger than a dog.
Her personality is what I’ll miss most. She was like a person trapped in a canine body. She was devilishly smart and a feisty attitude.
She could also tell when someone needed her. If you were sad she’d be right there at your side. My other dog had dizzy spells when we first learned he was diabetic and we were adjusting his insulin.
He would be confused, and sad, and scared. But she’d lay with him nose to nose to make sure he was alright.
And now his protector is gone. I never realized how much help she was with him. I never had to worry him outside. She would keep everything away from him. And I swear she could tell when he would be having an episode as she wouldn’t let him out of her sight.
She even helped me. Sometimes when I’d spend too much time at my computer she would put her massive grizzly bear head across the keyboard to signal it was time for a walk.
I’m going to miss the walks too. After nine years she didn’t need verbal commands, just a small tug of the leash this way or that. I knew exactly how she’d react in any situation. It was like we were both thinking the same thing.
Mostly because we spent so much time together. I work from home. I’ve spent every day with her, all day long, for nine years. She was my constant companion. She slept next to my bed. She’d sleep at my feet while I worked.
We’ve been inseparable for just shy of a decade.
And I don’t know what I’m going to do without her. It’s lonely without her here. The nights are the worst. I can’t stand it. I miss the sound of the slumbering giant next to me. As long as she was there it was like I knew everything was going to be okay. And now everything just feels so empty.
I lost my best friend 8 years ago, when she was practically a puppy. It was like she knew I needed extra love. She was the reason I was able to make it through that. I knew she found us for a reason after that.
And now here I am again. My best friend is gone. My sweet, fierce guardian. A piece of my soul went with her.
My only friend really. I never needed anyone else. It was like I had an angel of my very own, and it’s hard to top that kind of company.
I would have liked one last walk. I hope wherever she is they’re taking her, because she’s a handful if she isn’t walked regularly. But if they would want to send her back I’d gladly take her.
God, I’m going to miss you.
Originally published at https://www.newsbreak.com.