It’s been three days.
It seems like so much longer, but that’s how hard days can seem. The way they stretch and linger is painful…heart-wrenching.
He and I, we sat on the couch together three days ago. He was resting, his chest rising and falling…my hand there with every breath. In between games of Sudoku…something to keep my mind off of it all…I’d look over at him.
Feel the tears well up.
Whisper a prayer that it was all a bad dream.
Breathe into his ear how much I loved him.
We knew it. The vet had confirmed it just the day before, but we knew. We knew it was almost over.
Eleven years that had made up a lifetime were about to end.
It was soul-crushing, the kind that leaves a hollow, painfully deep ache.
And even in the ache, I caught myself reflecting…
Reflecting on a life together that began on a beautiful September Saturday in 2003. He bounded toward us, and I almost said no because he was bigger than the cute, wiggly, 12 week-old puppy I really wanted. But there was something about him, and we just knew.
We knew this was our puppy. And so we took this almost-five-month-old, still wiggly, ball of fur home with us and named him Andre.
He was totally an Andre…always happy, a little goofy, and perfectly sweet. We were in love immediately.
He bounded into our lives, ready to take on any adventures that might come with it. And had he known what was coming, maybe he would have turned around…but he didn’t. He stayed, he boarded planes, he crossed cultures, he welcomed more family members, he followed us wherever we went…and he lived every single day with exuberance.
Every single day for eleven plus years…and those years passed by too quickly.
And we watched the calendar pages turn, wondering where it was going. The one consolation was that he was still so much a puppy…so playful, so full of love.
And it continued until the end. Only in his last weeks did he show signs of slowing down…and that was why my hubby decided he needed to be checked out.
It didn’t take long to hear the words tumors and a week or two…and those words broke our hearts to shards. He wasn’t in any pain…but we carried that pain.
Knowing that he could slip away at any moment made it hard to even breathe.
Just 24 hours after we knew, it was time. We watched through tears as he used up the last of his love on people…that was so Andre. And then, exhausted, he found a spot in the grass to breathe in some of his last moments. We carried him to the van, and Tobin and I went.
We drove in tears, we gave final hugs, we went into the room, the three of us together for the last time.
We held him and told him, over and over, what he already knew. We loved him so much…and he had been the best dog in the world.
And my arms were wrapped around him, my hand on his heart, when he went.
The tears fell…more than I’ve ever cried, I think…as we said goodbye and forced ourselves to leave the room and find our way home…a home that will never feel the same again.
It’s three days later, and the tears still pour.
I miss my boy. I miss the way he greeted me with a smile and a butt wiggle multiple times a day. I miss the way every second was a gift worthy to be lived with exuberance. I miss the cuddles and the snuggles and the endless amounts of dog hair all over me.
I miss it all so much.
I miss him. And I will forever.
And I sometimes wonder why we chose it when we knew it would come to an end. But, really, we know the answer to that…and it’s the same answer that helps us breathe through the moments that hurt so much.
It’s Love. He lived it so well.
And so we laugh through the tears and smile and talk about the Andre stories…about the times he went swimming in places he shouldn’t have, about the time he ran into a tree, about the millions of ways he filled our lives with love.
We go on. Because the best way for us to honor his life is to live ours like he did.
Goodbye, sweet, sweet boy. You were a gift to us in ways we can’t even describe. We thought we were making your life better when we brought you home, but you were the one who made us better. Blessed us. And gave us a life full of love that will stay with us forever.
To Andre. You are forever a part of us…and forever in our hearts.