Two years ago today, I said goodbye to a very special friend.
I still remember the phone call, the late night drive, shivering in the cold…
So today, Pie, I’m thinking of you, as I have every day for more than 12 years.
And today I think it would be appropriate of me to mention another very special friend we lost about two months ago, just before New Year’s.
Chance had a rough start in life. My mom and I found him on the side of the road in Deal Island, Maryland, at the edge of a marsh. That was more than 13 years ago now. When we stopped the car, he came right over to us. He was starved, limped on a back leg, and was covered in fleas and ticks.
I remember that it was a weekend, and the shelter was closed, so, long story short, we ended up keeping him.
And it was one of the best things that ever happened to us, and the best thing for Chance.
The first three days we had him were rough. The first day, we gave him a bath and removed the ticks. The second day, we took him to the vet, where they most likely tested him for everything imaginable. He certainly seemed to have everything. Every intestinal parasite possible, heartworm, exposure to Lyme disease… Then, the third day, he was subjected to yet another bath.
Somewhere in the middle of it all, he escaped the outside kennel we temporarily kept him in one night, in the middle of a thunderstorm. And laid down on the driveway until someone came outside in the morning.
In a strange place, with strange people, most dogs would have run off. But not Chance. He chose to stay.
Years later, he got x-rays to check whether or not he had kidney stones. Luckily he didn’t, but the x-rays revealed something more disturbing. He was full of shrapnel. Someone had shot him with buckshot.
And despite the abuse and neglect he had suffered, he loved everyone, and was the happiest dog I’ve ever met. He never growled, never snarled. And you could never scold him for anything, really, because his big fluffy tail never stopped wagging.
It was hard to watch him get old. Hard to watch him struggle up the stairs, which he insisted on climbing when I was home for the weekends, just so he could sleep on the floor next to my bed. Just like old times.
And when I would leave, I would always give him a bowl of milk.
I’m a big milk drinker, and somehow it became our thing – Chance would always get the last of my cup of milk. Even after he went mostly blind and deaf, he could smell when I opened a container, and would be right there next to me.
For some reason, the weekend before he passed, I voiced something that had been bothering me.
Maybe it was because, for the first time, Chance hadn’t followed me upstairs at night. I was happy to leave him downstairs, where he could sleep in his favorite chair. I hated seeing him struggle with the stairs.
But as I gave him a bowl of milk and petted him before I left for my apartment in Baltimore, I said that I always wanted to make sure I gave him his bowl of milk and a nice hug before I left, because I could never be sure if it was going to be the last time I saw him.
And not even a week later, he was gone.
But it was sudden, it was quick – he didn’t suffer. And he was surrounded by love.
It’s hard to go home and not see him there, in his chair, or on his dog bed in the corner. But Chance had a very long, very happy, life. And now, there’s one more guardian angel waiting for us at the Rainbow Bridge, watching over us.