Late last night, I said goodbye to my best friend.
Today, the words still hurt, and I imagine that they will for a while. It’s always hard to lose someone or something special in your life, and the deeper the love between you, the deeper the pain.
Eight years ago, an amazing being came into my life. I was volunteering at a local no-kill shelter when Bruce and three of his siblings were brought in – found in a ditch, scooped up into safety by a passing stranger, and straight into my life.
I gave him his first bath; he squealed like a banshee. Little did I know how much this tiny waif of a dog would impact my life.
Bruce was more than just a dog. I grew up with dog-siblings through my entire childhood, five of them to be exact, but no dog ever captured my heart like Bruce. He grew from a seven pound ball of fuzz to an 85 pound protector and confidant. He was always there for me, by my side through every change, every move, every heartbreak and every joy. His love never wavered, and those dark brown eyes always looked at me as if to say, “it’s okay momma. We’ll make it through.”
He taught me so much – unconditional love, staying true to oneself no matter the outside influences (he was stubborn, that one), how to live in the moment and experience pure joy. He was by my side for eight years, and he will live on in my heart forever. (He even made it into several of my NaNo novels.)
A doctor that Bruce saw from the time he was little once gave him the title the “poster child for maintenance” – even with severe hip dysplasia and degenerative arthritis from the time he was young, he was always brave and stoic, and held himself together. In recent years, vets who didn’t know him or his story would look at his chart and shake their heads, disbelieving that a dog could be so happy and function so well with his laundry list of ailments.
I always knew that I wouldn’t have him around forever, but I think that a little part of us is always hopeful that we’ll somehow slip through the cracks of time and nature. And, honestly, I feel like I cheated getting to have him by my side for eight years. My goal was to keep him happy and healthy for as long as possible, and the day that he was no longer “Bruce” was the day that it was time to say goodbye. I never expected to have him past the age of five, so every day since has been a gift.
His passing was sudden. Over the weekend, my happy go lucky (yet always grouchy) old man was his normal self. However, starting early Monday morning, I spent the night on the couch, fitfully keeping an eye on him as he paced the house and started to feel bad. Yesterday morning, I took him to the emergency vet – and somehow I knew that even though the doctors there seemed hopeful that he would be discharged today, that was not to be.
We got the call at 9:30 last night – he was deteriorating quickly, and we could choose to try to fight, or we could let him go peacefully.
I won’t say that the decision was easy, but as soon as the vet finished laying out the options, I felt at peace. My Bruce was no longer “Bruce”, and he let me know that it was time to let him go. We drove back to the animal hospital for the third time that day, my partner and Bruce’s sister-from-another-mother Maia. We laid on the floor with him, said our thank yous and our goodbyes, and the vet helped him to fade quietly away. He was surrounded by those who love him most, two of his favorite toys, and the love and light of the universe.
Today, my heart hurts. I spent the afternoon looking through (literally thousands of) old photographs of Bruce, remembering the amazing animal, the friend, my fuzzy other half. He had a good life, and as I felt his spirit leave his body, I knew he would be headed back to Highland, to the farm where he could race through the fields pain free, nose twitching in the breeze, chasing deer and frolicking with the other family dogs whose lives passed on that plot of green earth. His body will be cremated, and the next time I travel back to Highland, his ashes will come with me – he (and his favorite squeaky blue toy elephant) has a special plot in the family dog graveyard, where daffodils and tulips commemorate his brethren gone before. I haven’t decided on flowers for his grave, but I’m thinking black iris.
So, Bruce. I’ll tell you one more time the same thing I told you last night:
Thank you for the years you dedicated to me, the adventures you were part of, the unconditional love and the fuzzy therapy. You were the best of dogs, and you will always hold a special place in my heart.
I love you more than anything in the universe.
Dedicated to Bruce Glendinning, born late summer 2005 – passed away August 26th 2013.