Monday night, my sister Jessie called. Usually, I'm expecting a call from her, or I haven't heard from her in a week, so I know why she's calling. I had just talked to her on Sunday, so I was surprised she was calling.
"Hey!" I said.
She sobbed. "The dog's in the emergency room."
Our dog, our sweet, sweet boy, Meeko, a ten and a half year old toy poodle. After two years of Jackie pretending she's a dog, or pretending the suitcase on the leash was a dog, my mom finally broke down and bought us a three pound, eight week old toy poodle puppy. This was in 1995, the Christmas of my senior year in high school. His first week home, he whimpered every night, and slept in between the stove and the wall on a pillow, because that was the warmest spot in the house. He loved going outside in the snow, he loved prancing around, he loved sleeping, he loved playing. We fell in love with him immediately.
I left home just four and a half years after he came into our lives, but I always called him My Dog. Of course I have a dog, he just lives in Ohio.
My mom told me last week that he wasn't doing well. He wasn't eating as much as he usually does, he was losing weight (he was only 13 pounds at his heaviest), and he was limping a lot. He also had little tumors all over his body. He wouldn't come up the stairs after going outside - he needed someone to carry him. He's been going in and out of being all shaky and limpy for the past few months, but he usually recovers and then he's his old self, barking at anything that moves, always wanting to play. While we were on the phone, I heard him bark.
"He's barking, he's fine!" I said.
"That's the first time he's barked really in two weeks," my mom said.
My mom and dad came home from dinner Monday night, and they found Meeko between the recliner and the wall (his favorite hiding spot), with blood all over his little snout. An abscess on his leg had busted open, and he was nursing his wound. After a lot of careful coaxing (he'll snap at you if you try to pick him up when he doesn't want to be picked up), they got him onto a sheet and into a basket and drove him to the emergency room. He cried the whole way there.
My mom called me. "He's dying, Katie. He lost a lot of blood, and they think he has cancer all throughout his body."
I couldn't really process it. I felt more grief for my sisters than for myself, especially Jessie, who he slept with every night. I couldn't really wrap my head around it. I gave my whole speech to Jessie - when they stop eating and playing, they're not dogs anymore, and if they're ready to go, we can't just keep him around because we'll miss him. If he's miserable, we have to let him go. That seemed to calm her down a little bit. She agreed she didn't want him to hurt anymore, and she told my mom to do whatever's best.
The decision didn't need to be made. He died on his own, an hour and a half after they got him to the emergency room. My dad was with him when he went - my mom couldn't bear to be there.
From 2400 miles away, it's hard to understand how to grieve this. I'm not there to come home to him not being there, dancing around, ready to go outside. But something in my heart is missing. When I have woken up the past two days, he's the first thought in my mind, and I get sick to my stomach. I asked Gina this morning, "When am I going to stop waking up and missing my dog?" She said, "That'll never go away."
He was a good dog. He wasn't well trained, but he was so sweet. He'd bolt if you opened the door, and he'd be a little bitch about coming back home, but he sure knew how to cuddle when you needed it. He was really good at Hide-and-Go-Seek - he totally understood the game. I mean, he never would hide, but he understood that he had to run away to let YOU hide, and then he'd have to find you. He could leap like a little deer. He barked at EVERYTHING, and he snapped at little kids, but he was super-protective of all of us. My mom and I would fake-fight with each other, with her tickling me and poking me, and me basically trying to fend her off, and Meeko would start barking, trying to protect me. When Jessie and Jackie were littler, he could hear their school bus coming to drop them off well before anyone else could hear it. And if you said to him, "Where's the bus? Where are the kids?", he'd go NUTS. He hated the rain, loved the snow, hated Milkbones, hated brand new toys (he would bark at them as though they were enemies, and then he would rip out the squeaker and claim victory over them), he loved peanut butter, he loved spaghetti, hated car rides, loved licking people. I miss him, but I'm so grateful for the time he spent with us.
This is the only photo I have of him with me... I'll post more this weekend.