I let go of my little Pint o’Guinness this morning. I held her until she stopped existing alongside of me. For a dozen years, she was my shadow. We adopted the little black and tan coonhound mix for Jason because I already had a dog. It didn’t take long for me to have two dogs. Guinness proved fickle in her allegiance to Jason. I’m pretty sure it had something to do with my allowing her on the couch for naps. She was stinky and pitiful and noisy. Very little changed over the years. The years and bladder cancer ravaged her body.
Guinness was the best napping partner in the world. She seemed to know just what I needed when I needed it. If I had a migraine, she would sniff my head, then curl up at my feet. Other times, she would curl up and lean against my back. For a bit of time, she was perfectly still. Once she was finished being my snuggle puppy, she started the dog-circling-rearranging-ear scratching dance that was her subtle way of getting me off the bed so she could have it for herself. In the end, on the floor of the vet’s office, she had her bed all to herself.
If she excelled at napping, Guinness was a genius at getting food and affection. She would walk up and put her warm head on my leg. If I ignored that, she would wiggle her head just a bit to make sure I knew she was there. Looking back, Guinness’ warm head was always right there for me to stroke. Sitting on the floor at the vet’s office, I was unable to move her head off my lap for the last time. I was paralyzed with grief and fear. I knew once her head was off my leg and tucked under her own, I’d have no connection to her. The spell she had cast over me would be broken, and I’d be alone.
I think the secret to her magic was in her hound dog ears and hound dog eyes. For those who have never been under their spell, let me tell you, only the hardest of hearts aren’t moved by the warm, long, soft ears that seem to lower the minute the hound wants what you have. Their eyes? Oh, their brownish black eyes open wide and command you to stop what you are doing and acquiesce to their fiendish demands. For Guinness, her demands were usually for chocolate, cookies, and affection. Eating and house domination were her hobbies. Should the combination of warm ears and big eyes not work quickly enough, Guinness employed a little, whiny trill. Once I heard that, I was done for. These past few weeks, Guinness wasn’t able to stand and command anything. The cute, whiny trill was replaced with something that resembled a moan. On the floor of the vet’s office, her eyes grew glassy and heavy; her ears grew cold and still.
As I watched my dog, I saw her struggle to eat, to drink, to walk, to potty, to lie down, to stand, to exist. All of these infinitives of life took an infinity’s worth of effort to complete. She would stumble on her way to the food bowl Jason moved upstairs. She had to be carried upstairs if she mistakenly went downstairs. Last night, her final night with me, she slipped and fell because only three of her legs could bear her weight. (She lost five pounds in a week.) She limped back to her pillow to fall/lie down and sleep. I had to carry her bowl to her so she would eat. She wasn’t even living; she was existing, and her existence was misery.
I promised her all those years ago that I would love her and keep her as safe and happy as was possible. We brought in her pillow and blanket so she would be able to curl up and wait for her doctor. I held her and thanked her for being my girl; Jason filled out the paperwork because I wasn’t able to. I waited on the floor of the vet’s office for Dr. P and Jason. Dr. P petted Guinness and told her he was sorry it came to this. The surgery in July that revealed cancer and not bladder stones, the prescription that shrunk the tumor and gave me almost six more months with her, the tumor that destroyed her bladder’s muscles and left her with a permanent tinkle trail, the dragging leg, the rapid weight loss, the last hope with a cortisone shot. None of this do I regret because there was hope, playfulness and improvement until the very end. Dr. P grieved with us and for us on the floor of his office.
On the floor of the vet’s office, I left my precious pup. Jason gently lifted Guinness’ soft, black and tan head from my leg and tucked it under her own leg as if she were sleeping. He straightened out one ear, and I smoothed out the other, both of them growing cold. I kissed her for the last time, and I tucked her in under her blanket lest she get any colder on her pillow on the floor of the vet’s office.