Goodbye Dog

There are many things that I regret about today.

Like how I wish I recognised that you were beyond saving, and chose to hold you as you slipped away. Instead, dad and I threw you into the backseat of my car and I drove as fast as I dared to a clinic nearly an hour away, the same one we went to only three days ago. We got you fully vaccinated, you little shit, and I should have known that your lack of fighting was a sign that there wasn’t anything left to fight for.

I wish I knew the exact moment that you left, but I could only guesstimate that it was just before 11am, on 23 March 2024. I reached back to touch you at the second traffic light from home, only to find that your heart had stilled. When you wailed to alert us that you were leaving, your heart was beating nearly out of your chest. I wailed too, and had to drive three more traffic lights before I could do another check for signs of life. Your nose was cold and there was no breath coming from it.

It was the longest drive of my life.

I thought I had it together, but as I started to tell the vet assistant why I was there, I started sobbing again. She understood. I was not the first one there, parting the Red Sea to reach safety and finding that I was instead sailing the River Styx, escorting a lifelong companion –  your lifelong. My lifelong would be to live longer than I have loved you, like all those dog reels say. I guess you’ll be getting a reel now.

You weighed 19.70 kg at the end of your life. Another vet assistant touched your body in the backseat of my car and said, “She just left, didn’t she? She’s still warm.”

Two days ago, I was sitting with a close friend, speaking in code about how we’re afraid of this moment arriving for our dogs. I thought I would have to hold your paw on an examination table and whisper, “It’s okay” as you go to sleep for the last time. I thought there would be a proper goodbye. I thought I would gaze into your golden brown eyes and see the moment you leave, although it kills me to think about.

You laid on your purple bath towel in the backseat of my car, head behind the driver’s seat because that was how we ended up placing you. It was your favourite spot, sticking your nose out the window just behind me, the wind whipping your drool over the window pane. The last time you did that was during the vet visit just days prior. I’m glad you had a chance to experience it one last time.

When I announced your death to the other people who knew I loved you, I realised that you were 13 years old – a number that is special to me. Tomorrow begins the first lunar eclipse of the year, representing a life-changing shift. There is no greater life-changing shift than moving on with my life without you, but that’s not all. It’s a lunar eclipse in Libra, and guess who’s the fucking Libra here going through a life-changing shift? And guess whose furry ass is getting cremated during the same eclipse?

You knew who your mum is, didn’t you? You timed all this perfectly to set me free for all the big things coming my way. You left me with a respectable amount of money that our friends sent for your care, because you knew I would absolutely use it for your care and take nothing for myself. How a dog ended up richer than her owner is mystifying to me. I was going to buy new canvases next week to see if you were up to painting some thank-you gifts for your wonderful benefactors, but now I would never let go of the three paintings we made together. I guess I’ll make you a nice little urn instead.

It would be strange to go to the front porch and you’re no longer jumping to your feet to greet me. The number of times I went to peer at you through the front windows since last week to see if you were okay. To see if your chest was moving up and down while you slept in your hammock bed.

I was convinced that you were on the mend yesterday, because you kept getting up and coming over. I told dad it was a good sign because you had been lethargic for days. We had our last walk this morning. I didn’t take any photos or videos. You were showing signs of discomfort and refused your biscuits. Later, you ate a few small pieces of chicken but ignored your breakfast. A bit later on, while I was sweeping my bedroom, you announced that your plane to the next life was boarding.

After the vet assistant weighed you and moved you back to the trolley, he asked if I wanted to say my final goodbyes. I said I already did it in the car. I would not do that in the hallway of a vet clinic, unusually full on a Saturday morning, in front of other pet owners who watched me weeping from one end of the hallway to the other.

I would not hug you; you hated that in life and I will respect your body autonomy even in death. The only full body contact we had was when I’m making sure you didn’t hurt yourself or the vet. We did that a few short days ago. Instead, in the car, I stroked your snout from the nose to the heart-shaped mark on your forehead, booped your cold nose, and held your paw. I took a few photos because I did not want to regret NOT doing it after I’ve mourned.

I’m getting some of your ashes back next week, and I think it’s going to be the most powerful love magic I’ll ever have in my possession. I have never loved anyone the way I loved you. I don’t want to say I will never love anyone again because you have shown me how to love others, and man, what a great time it’s turning out to be.

And I think you loved me too. You stepped into my life to save it 12 years ago, and now you are letting me go. I hope I will live a life that will make you proud. I hope you are proud. I hope you made the right choice, choosing me. Because I made the right choice to keep you. A life-changing choice.

You have been gone for roughly four hours. I don’t know how many of the five stages of grief I can legitimately check off. We’re past denial, anger, and bargaining. Depression seems likely, but acceptance arrived just as quickly as our last drive to the vet.

The last time I cried this hard was when I fostered you for two weeks and thought I had to let you go. And now, I’ve arrived at this bridge again and the choice is made.

Thank you. I love you. Goodbye.

Girlie “Smelly” Tan

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