And it has closed, this season with Duncan. We have known it, we have denied it, we have delayed it, we never truly faced it, until now.
As we talked with the vet tech, the answer became clear. He can’t continue to lose weight. He can’t continue to fall over when he goes up the stairs, or when he is outside. He can’t continue to throw up half of his food because of the cancerous tumor in his neck. He can’t continue to feign interest in walks, bones, or food when he has known far longer than we have that it is time.
Let me go.
If I had not been selfish at Whitewater three weeks ago, I would have answered then, but I didn’t. He and I swam together, slow, easy, gorgeous. He would go for a large semi circle around me, and come back to the safety of shallow water. He smiled, a little, that smile of wisdom and age. The smile of – thanks, love, for the memory.
Even now, as I type, he is at my feet, new bone to the side – once upon a time that bone would be demolished, the only point of focus for an entire hour. Not now. Now he rests from all that effort it took to chew, just a bit. He looks at me and says with his eyes, seriously? I can’t do that anymore. I’m done.
It effects each action. I reach for my Life is good coffee mug and pause, no. No. Today Life isn’t good. Today we say goodbye to a life, a full, vivacious, gorgeous, rollerblade chewing, ice cube chasing, refused to get out of the water and swam for over an hour, life.
And now, as I sit one week out from saying goodbye to Duncan, there is a void. In breaths I see his eyes, his tired, old eyes who say so much. I miss him. I miss his persistence with sitting on the couch with me. I miss his slobber dripping down to the floor and how he shared it with guests and family alike. I miss how he uncomfortably sat next to me when I cried and occasionally bark to indicate he did not like this energy.
I see other yellow labs, and they are pretty and lovely and happy and not Duncan. I don’t know if I could get another lab now because I search the eyes looking for my boy, my sweet pup, my Duncan.
Enzo, the narrator and retriever in The Art of Racing in the Rain believes that the next go around for a dog is to become human.
I’ve always felt almost human. I’ve always known that there’s something about me that’s different than other dogs. Sure, I’m stuffed into a dog’s body, but that’s just the shell. It’s what’s inside that’s important. The soul. And my soul is very human.
Duncan’s soul was pure and good. I know it was time to say goodbye. He no longer is in pain, he no longer is trying to placate me and my emotions. He and I, locked eye to eye the entire time he was on the vet’s table, reassured each other that it was okay, and time. And when he went, Randy and I held on to each other, placed hands on his head and wept.
It was time, but it is never time. It was the right thing, but is never the right thing. It relieved some pain, but caused so much more. It was and is the ever paradox of life: in the end, there is death.
Which isn’t final for the living until we release the clutch on grief. Once that hand is pried finger by finger from around the fear of losing the lost, there comes a freedom, a relief, a way to remember the loving, living version of that soul now circulating with all the glorious energy of the world.
I’m still clutching, but there is hope, and that is what horizons and miles and waves and rises and sets all have in them-hope.
Say goodnight, Duncan. I’ll see you on the flip side.