My daughters had never lost something really precious that had been planned. I explained that it would be like pulling off a bandaid. You were prepared, but it would still hurt like hell. And, so it was.
Last weekend we went to our home in Truckee to have our beloved Golden Doodle put to sleep. For months we called it taking the “rainbow bridge.” When you have a large dog that is fifteen you know her days are numbered. As she slept more and more and often until noon it became clear that she really was 120 in dog years. As the day approached to meet Dr. Riley at our house I wondered if she would even make it to that date. My worst fear was that she would have an incident in which she would have to be put to sleep by our local vet. We love our local vet, but our dog decidedly does not. Our very healthy dog only made trips to the vet for shots and teeth cleaning both met with destain. Ditto for the groomer. I did not want the last moments of my dogs life to be filled with fear.
On Thursday we drove to Tahoe and spent all day Friday taking our dog to her favorite places in Tahoe. The hiking trails near and behind our house, Kings Beach, Sand Harbor, Speedboat Beach, and the Truckee River. We spent time with her and each other.
Dr. Riley came to our house on a clear beautiful sunny day. My younger daughter took the lead on how she envisioned this moment to be. She laid out creamy white blankets from our bunk room, picked wild flowers and placed them under a grove of Aspens. We bought our Tahoe house in May of 2007 and Polly was born on May 1st of that year, and she spent her first summer in Tahoe with us. It was her favorite place in the world both summer and winter. We sat together with her and placed yellow and blue wild flowers in the fur around her face as she slept under the trees. At 10 a.m. Dr. Riley arrived and we proceeded. She slipped away peacefully at 10:15 a.m.
Afterwards, we sat together in the house eating Haagendaz ice cream bars. “I don’t know how to feel,” I remarked to my daughters. Polly was rare in that she didn’t belong to any one person in our family. From the start, she honestly loved all of us equally, and we all took turns caring for her. Letting her in and out constantly, taking her for walks, feeding her and brushing the burrs out of her fur. Now, we are left with only her memory. As we sat together, we shared all of the funny stories about her. Most of them revolved around her love of brie cheese, stealing shoes or the glasses off of the faces of our house guests and running through the backyard before returning them unharmed, or escaping. She often escaped, or jumped into any body of water that was available at the most inconvenient of times. One New Year’s Eve she escaped to the neighbors and spent the evening with them before she was finally collected at 2 a.m. Most of my memories of her were of how comforting she was to be with. She followed me everywhere and would curl up at my feet no matter where I sat. She did all of the carpooling with me. When the girls were little she would cry if they cried. If anyone raised their voice she would start barking and step in. When she greeted you at the door she wagged her entire body. And, she could smile. She would smile at you. I trained her to listen to voice commands. I would tell her to get in the car and she would run into the garage and jump in. She was that smart. After my husband died she never left my side. She went everywhere with me. In many ways she was a saint, but she also had a mind of her own and her own agenda.
After she passed I understood fully why people say that will never get another dog because it hurts too much to lose them. My girls and I sat together and looked at each other. We decided to do something we had never done before and we went gambling. I won $100 playing roulette in Incline Village. Like most distractions it gave me a hollow sad feeling and I picked up my chips, cashed out and went home. I cooked dinner and we watched movies together. I still have that reflex to check on her or reach to prepare her food as well as our own, but she is no longer here. The most comforting thought for my daughters was that now my husband who died six years ago would have Polly with him after being alone so long. I’m not sure if I believe that’s true, but it’s a lovely thought.
Back in the Bay Area this morning, my house is oddly quiet. Cars drive by in the foggy white summer light as I sit with my coffee as my day begins. It’s the end of an era. As the days progress I feel I will be opening not just a new chapter this time, but an entire new book. I am looking forward to Volume 2 and I hope you will join me on my journey.
Love and blessings to all.