If Love Could Have Saved You…

I first saw you on the Heavenly Creatures ‘adoptable dogs’ page, back in 2007. What struck me was how much you looked like Lola – same markings, everything. It said that your dad, an older gentleman from Cox’s Cove on the west coast, had passed away, and you had no one. We were looking for a friend for Lola, so we called up your foster mom. She said you were about thirty pounds and looked rather like a pot-bellied pig. We decided to bring Lola to meet you.
We met in a house downtown, an old triple-decker that had seen better days. We had to go all the way to the top to meet you. That strikes me as appropriate now. At the top was where you belonged.  I remember my trepidation as we walked up the three flights of stairs. I wanted Lola to accept you. I wanted you to be the right dog for us, and I wanted you to fit seamlessly into our family. I didn’t know if any of these things would happen.
The moment Lola saw you – the moment I saw you – that was it. She was all over you, giving you kisses, ‘talking’ to you, dancing around you. When we turned to take you with us, you practically dragged us down the stairs. You were going home! You were going home with us. 
I remember you and Lola exhausted yourselves running around the house. You got so excited you threw up your supper, then you hid in the living room because you were afraid I was angry. Oh my darling, as if I could ever be angry at you. You were an angel in a furry coat and I loved every single moment I spent with you.
You fitted into our family from the start. It was like you’d always been with us. I remember you sitting with me on the couch, downstairs in the rec room, and you were gazing at me thoughtfully. Then you put out your paw for me to shake. I fell in love so hard, I swear my heart cracked wide open. I knew, from that moment, you were my dog. You crawled into my lap and put your arms around my waist and we snuggled. “You’re home,” I whispered into your silky-soft ears. “You’re safe at home forever.”
In the end we only had six years with you. Six years of long walks and romping in the winter fields. Six years of snuggles during snowstorms. Six years of holiday cottages in the country, and picnics on the beach while we sat together and listened to the sea crashing on the shingle.
Oh, my darling, I loved you so. Those years went by much too fast. I saw you were getting tired, and it was harder for you to get around. You didn’t want to go for walks anymore. You preferred to sleep in a puddle of sun in the living room. There were other things, too. You started using the bathroom in the house, despite having impeccable house training all your life. Sometimes when I called you, you didn’t come, or if you did come, you stared at me like I was a stranger.  You were having trouble getting around, and you’d begun to pant and cough a lot; you couldn’t rest; you were in pain almost all the time. You often went out into the garden and stood up, looking around, as if you’d suddenly arrived in a strange land, friendless and alone.  I knew – I knew what was coming, and I dreaded it.
On Friday, August 23, 2013, you died. Dr. Margaret Brown-Bury – you and she were old friends; she called you ‘handsome man’ – helped you on your way. I held you while they shaved your paw to put the needle in. I reminded you of all the wonderful things we had done over the years. I kissed you and I told you “You will always be my boy. You will always be Mommy’s boy.”
The last picture I ever took of you, on a fuzzy blanket in the clinic, just before you died.
And so Dr. Brown-Bury administered the drug that would ease your pain at last, that would allow you to slip out of this world. You were gone within seconds. I cried so hard I couldn’t see. I had to sit in the parking lot for a while until my vision cleared enough to drive home.
For an entire year after you died, I couldn’t speak your name out loud without bursting into tears. There are some days now, five years later, that are still like that. You were an incredible dog.  I remember finding out that you’d been waiting to be adopted for almost forever. No one wanted you because you were an ‘older’ dog, eight when we brought you home, and you weren’t a cute, fluffy puppy anymore. I used to think it was sad that you sat there for so long, waiting and waiting, and no one came.
I know now you were waiting for me.
Sheppie, 1999-2013. If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever. Rest well, my dear old friend. Until we meet again.

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