I've mentioned that Mom's dog Spliffer is 17-ish human years old. That makes him well over one hundred in dog years, right? Although he's blind and deaf, he's in okay shape... I guess. He's got a pretty big tumor on his backside. It's been there for a long time. At least a year, maybe longer? We don't know if it's benign or what... I'm guessing benign, but we just let it go because we figured it was his time to go. Hell, we figured it was his time to go several years ago. When I lived in Brooklyn I kept expecting The Phone Call from Mom. It never came, obviously, because the old boy is still hanging around.
We were going to do it last Saturday, Mom and I. Had to psych ourselves up for it all week. Until we realized Saturday was Valentines Day and that just seemed wrong. Then, after taking Spliffy along for a walk I kind of convinced myself it wasn't the right time and the old boy has a couple good months left in him. But today Mom asked if I'd go with her tomorrow. I'm not ready! That's what I told her. I need time to prepare! But maybe it's better to do it quick, when I don't have a whole work week to ponder how I can possibly say goodbye to this beloved member of our family. And not just in my heart and mind. How do I physically stand there next to a dog that trusts me implicitly while the vet does his thing? And then. Waiting for him to die, petting him, telling him how much I love him? Then what? How do I just walk away?
I don't know if I can do this.
Mom's just gonna bawl. Really, I don't think she can take it. But she has to be there. She's his mama. We all moved out and went on with life so for years and years it's just been her and Spliffer. He's her "chicken". "C'mere chicken", she'll say. Back when he could hear, she'd sing songs and Spliffer would join right in, throwing his head back and howling along with his mama.
Spliffer was part of a litter of pups our neighbor's dog gave birth to in 1993, I'm guessing it was. I was a sophomore in high school and can still remember crying because Mom wouldn't let Spliffer upstairs until he was potty trained. That didn't stop me from curling up with him atop a smelly pile of dirty clothes scattered across the floor in the laundry room, keeping the tiny puppy company during the nights.
Soon after, Spliffy got real sick. One day I found his tiny head drooping into his water bowl. Too weak to move, let alone drink water or eat. I, along with my freshly minted driver's license and my little brother, loaded him up in the car and drove through a blizzard to the nearest vet who immediately diagnosed him with Parvo. They kept him at the clinic, pumping fluids and medicines into his little body, while explaining that puppies this young with Parvo don't often survive.
Several days and several hundreds of dollars later I spent my entire paycheck from dishing out snacks at the local skating rink to spring our baby Spliffer from the clinic. I was proud that I'd saved him, so proud I kept the receipt stashed away in a box of mementos, accidentally discovering it just a few weeks ago when packing for the move.
Spliffer has been with our family through everything. I can remember sobbing in my room, post abortion, clinging to Spliffy like a life raft. I'm sure he knows all our secrets, cuddling up to each of us during our respective tough times in life, thoughtfully listening to our laments, licking our tears. But he's old now, his once vibrant personality is slowly being eaten away by his blindness and deafness, his deteriorating eyesight and hearing turning shadows into intruders, vibrations into threats.
Still, ever since we moved back to Mom's place, he has slept at the foot of our bed every single night. He faithfully follows me wherever I go, often tripping me as he has no idea when he's underfoot. He just wants to be close. It cheers me some, to know I get to spend his last days in close proximity with my beloved dog instead of far away, not aware of his passing.
It's fitting, sadly beautiful even, that we began our journey in the same home and we will end it together in the same home.