Just one short month from now and it will be my first Christmas without Clancy in over a decade. So many years we were too far from home to go back and be around family for the holidays. But no matter where I was, I always had my little white fluffy angel doggie to make it all okay. We'd build a makeshift tree out of holiday liquor boxes decorated with purple Crown Royal pouches as ornaments and open the couple of presents my parents sent. Always being strangers in a strange land, we'd wait out the day together in solitude. Booze for dinner and then early to bed. His soft white fur catching my tears as I cried myself to sleep from being so lonesome.
(Sarah and Clancy circa 2001)
Clancy wasn't just a pet, he was part of my identity. For so many years I was the girl with the sweet white dog. People always commented on my little white doggie when we went for walks. As I'm typing this, the sun just came out for the first time in days. First instinct is to grab the leash and holler "Wanna go for a WALK?" Second instinct is to cry. How goddam sad is a girl on a walk without her white doggie? Pretty fucking sad, I can guarantee that. It feels like I've lost an appendage -- an extension of myself. I feel like there is less of me now. I definitely have phantom pains, except they show up in the form of mistaken glimpses of the dog -- like thinking I see him outside in the yard or at the back door waiting to come in. I don't even have to watch out for poop in the backyard anymore, but I still check my shoes when I come inside. And that makes me so sad.
I just wish he was still here.
While he was sick and starting to fade, we spent so much time in silence listening to each other breathe. Such a beautiful sound I wrote about it:
Laying in bed
Listening to the sound
of the Pooh's snooze
Light breath in
Hmmmppphhhh out from the belly
Enjoying the moment
with my best friend
and unconditional confidante
I love to hear you breathe
Once we found out it was cancer and there was nothing we could do for him, we went into hospice mode. The entire situation was all too reminiscent of my last hospice experience. Not wanting to leave his side for one minute, realizing there was nothing I could do to fix anything, knowing it was only a matter of time before we would no longer be together. The biggest difference with this hospice experience and the other one is that it became MY responsibility to make the decision to separate -- to send my best friend on his new journey because he was too loyal to leave on his own.
This was the hardest decision on earth. I put it off. I hoped he would pass in his sleep. But he's a good doggie and would NEVER leave my side no matter how painful his life had become. I didn't think I could do it. Not while he still recognized me.
During his last month, I spent hours with him sending out this loving-kindness meditation to him.
May he live his last days with ease and comfort, as much as possible
May he pass from this world with dignity and peace, as much as possible
May he transcend this mortal burden of illness and shine eternally as a white light of energy
I probably repeated this meditation a thousand times. I can only hope it helped him through such a painful journey. I know it helped me calm down and appreciate each moment I had left with him.
Then one day, death visited. Not in the phantom form that I hoped would quietly climb into his slumber and release him, but in the form of a scent. A scent that I had smelled before. A scent that, once smelled, can never be un-smelled. It's the sweet, sour, metallic smell of sickness. Unlike anything else. Unforgettable and unmistakable. The smell of Death.
I knew at this moment that I was no longer being a good pet parent. I was being selfish. I wanted Clancy to do the hard part -- to say it's time to go. But he wouldn't because he doesn't give the commands in this relationship, he takes them. That's how it has always been - why would it be different now?
I decided I wasn't going to fail my furry friend after all these years just because it would be too hard for ME. I contacted an at-home vet service and scheduled a time for them to come to our house. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do.
The time came. Jason and I were together with Clancy in our home. He was in his own bed with all of his stuffed animals around him. I realized I was glad that he could still recognize me because I stared straight into those brown/black eyes the whole time. He knew I was with him -- that I would never leave him. I know he knew because I could see it in his eyes.
It was very peaceful. The vet cried with us as we moved through the moments. I can say with confidence that he was comfortable and passed with dignity.
The vet took him away with her, for which I was thankful. I'd been having nightmares of going to the vet with my dog and leaving without him.
We had him cremated and brought him home in a tin box a few days later. Now he's up on a very high shelf surrounded by his stuffed animal pals looking down over me everyday.
I miss my doggie.
And that's the saddest story I've ever written.
(PS - Please don't think I've forgotten about all the love I still have in my life. I'm so very thankful to have Jason, my parents and Derville to help me through this massive change in my life. But nothing can replace my love for the Pooh - there is no comparable love in this world and that's why it hurts so bad.)