This year for Christmas, Junior and I went to my parents house. However, Junior was not feeling well, spending most of the time laying still and not moving much. When he didn’t get any better, I left early with my mom and we got Junior to the hospital. Once there they found that he wasn’t doing well at all. He was having trouble breathing and his heart racing, and he was getting worse quickly. The doctor found his lungs were full of fluid and he had a very large tumor in his chest. They did all that they could, but Junior died the evening of December 26, 2014, 2 years and 3 days after he came home. He was just barely 3 years old.
Anyone who says that real men don’t cry obviously never had a dog. I will probably forever remember the moment they called to tell me Junior was gone. I lost it, and the tears wouldn’t stop. They remained for days, and weeks, just on the surface, if they weren’t flowing freely. And even still, the tears will return to remind me he isn’t here.
I miss Junior. Obviously he had the tumor for a while, and was feeling really bad for a few days before. I’m sure those days were terrible for him. His breathing was labored for a while. His heart going crazy fast for some time. But I think Junior kept hanging on. Hanging on for me, hanging on to get home one last time, and at the hospital, hanging on until I left. I wasn’t super affectionate at the hospital. I didn’t want to be in the way. I wanted them to make him better. Then, just before we left for the night, I crouched in front of him lying on the hospital bed, with tubes hooked up to him. I pet his head, looked in his eyes and told him he would be OK and that I would be back. I know it isn’t fair to assign him human feelings, but I’m human so I will. That moment turned out to by our goodbye. As he looked back at me, I knew Junior recognized me and loved me and knew I loved him. And as I left, he could finally surrender to his pain as his body betrayed him; but he didn’t have to disappoint me. He never let me down.
When we came back to see his body and decide what to do, I didn’t want to touch him, and I didn’t want to remember him like that. I wanted to remember him as the slightly belligerent dog who always knew exactly what he was supposed to do but didn’t always want to do it. I wanted to remember the dog who always wanted a paw touching me; who’s idea of affection was to put a paw in my chest and then straighten his rather long legs. I wanted to remember the dog who, upon being required to sit quietly while I signed for the pizza, went back into the kitchen, only to return with a paper plate in his mouth, ready for his fair share of the pizza, thank you very much. Who’s favorite seat was on the couch. The whole couch. I wanted to remember the dog who always wanted me there with him.
I didn’t want to remember him like he was that night, what remained behind after my Junior had left. More than anything, I didn’t want him to be cold. He was always warm, and I loved that. When he would lean on me, he was warm. When he curled up with me in a beanbag, he was warm. When he would climb into my bed, his goal was to get as much of him on, next to or draped over me. And he was warm. (Sometimes too warm.) As he was brought in on that table, I missed the warm, and more than anything I was scared he would be cold. I touched his face and not all the warmth was gone. I spent several minutes holding his face. Holding his soft face. His face was always so soft.
The next days and weeks were not much fun. There were reminders everywhere. His food is still sitting in a corner; I don’t know what to do with it. His water bowl. His bed. His toys. The smell of him where he would sleep, and his hair. Everywhere. And then there were the rather mundane things that happened all the time. When I woke up in the morning, he wasn’t there. We didn’t need to go out for a walk. When I was at work and it would start to get late, I would look at the clock and think I better get home, only to remember there was no one waiting for me. When I would come in the door, Junior wasn’t standing there to welcome me home. Several days later, I ordered pizza and when the delivery guy rang the doorbell, I jumped up to be ready to hush the barking that didn’t come, and I missed it. And anytime the house creaks my first thought is that it is Junior moving around.
Almost every day, I miss Junior. I miss so much about him and would trade all the trouble he could make to have him back. I miss his joy. I miss his love and I miss loving him. I miss my dog. I miss my friend.