Our first dog, Nico, died on Saturday. Really I should say we put Nico down on Saturday because what I wouldn't give to have just found him dead of his own accord in our house as opposed to the visceral reality of an assisted death for a very sick friend. It would have made things a lot easier. But, as with his whole life, nothing with Nico was ever easy.
Pets are a cruel joke that we play on ourselves. We go into the game knowing as a cold hard fact that we will outlive them. We're destined to fall in love, share the ins and outs of daily life, and then watch as our friends die. Still we do it, and I don't know why, maybe because we're in denial. In the early years this harsh reality seems so far away, something we don't have to deal with yet, an eventuality that we don't want to think about until it's right there staring us in the face. Not that it's not worth it in many ways, but after a weekend like that I find myself wondering if it really is. Because Nico was sick for so long it's hard for me to even remember happy Nico and I think that breaks my heart more than anything. I should be sadder. This should have been harder. But he was in so much pain and I just wanted it to go away, for him, for me.
I've never seen anything die, not like that, let alone something I loved so dearly. There's a stillness to a body, to a corpse, when it ceases to take breath and the blood doesn't flow, when the chest you've used as a pillow so many times isn't moving, that I couldn't take. It cut my heart in two and I had to go, I couldn't bear to look at it any longer, the hollow shell that used to be my dog. Every second that ticked by past his last breath and my gasping tears was one more where I could feel it building in me, a primal response that I couldn't control, RUN, THIS ISN'T RIGHT. GET AWAY. But I didn't want to go and leave him there alone. But he wasn't there anymore, it was just Jon and I and a jar of snickers labeled 'human treats' and a poorly placed ad for a pet photographer and it was time to leave.
We went to noodles and company afterwards, because what the hell else do you do? I don't know. Eat noodles. Sit. Wonder if the crowd around you can smell death on your clothes and in your hair and the acrid chemical smell that lingers in your nose. Is it really there, following you? Or is it only lingering in your head because you can't forget?
There's a weird kind of curtain around losing a pet. Almost as if I don't want to admit how sad I am because it was just a dog. But it was my dog who went everywhere with me and somehow that makes it very different. I haven't even wanted to let the sad inside, Jon is just so heartbroken and one of us needs to hold it together, but I can feel it starting to creep in around the edges. I'm afraid if I let it in it will take me over and I'm just not ready for that yet. Jon held him; I couldn't bear to be that close.
There's just one dog to feed now, one leash. There is no big black mass sleeping on the couch making hair all over my floor. Yesterday I looked around with all confidence that I would see it there and was brought back to the reality that it's never going to be there again. The house feels empty with just the four of us and strange like something's missing. Because it is.
Tear down the house that I grew up in, I'll never be the same again
Take everything that I used to own and burn it in a pile
Bulldoze the woods that I ran through, carry the pictures of me and you
I have no memory of who I once was
And I don't remember your name
Park the old car that I love the best, inspections due and it won't pass the test
It's funny how I have to put it to rest
And how one day I will join it
I remember crying over you, and I don't mean like a couple of tears and I'm blue
I'm talking about collapsing and screaming at the moon
But I'm a better man for having gone through it