By Lisa Huddleston

Right now, my thoughtful husband and youngest son are driving around town with a large, aged dog in the back of the Expedition.  They are doing this because they couldn’t get in to see the vet until 9:30, and they didn’t want me to have to see them when they left the house.  Mary, a dear part of our family for the past 13 years, is dying.  For quite some time, it has been clear that she wouldn’t be with us for much longer.  Her steps have been painful and her movements stiff and guarded; but, some days have been better than others, and I have been able to ignore what was coming.  Today is not one of those days—and the past few weeks have not held many of them either. Her eyes tell me it’s time, but it is so hard to say good-bye.

Truthfully, I wasn’t thrilled when she arrived.  Chuck’s brother had brought her to the farm to replace Granddaddy’s dog, Maggie, but Granddaddy would have none of it.  Of course, that meant Mary was handed off to me.  I’m a sucker for animals and have recently put a “no eye contact” policy in place with all strays.  But this was way before that, and Mary became ours.  Our two youngest children had a bit of a love hate relationship with her at first, but our oldest son took on the challenge of “training” her with gusto.  Chad immediately loved that dog!  Even at 4 months old, she was a lot to handle with huge, overgrown paws and a propensity for knocking small people to the ground.  But with caramel colored eyes in a soft brown face, she eventually won us all over and was firmly entrenched as a member of the family.  All that sweet girl ever wanted was to be with us 24 hours a day, and that’s pretty much been the way it’s been for the past 13 years. 

As the kids have grown and become less present in the house, Mary has become my sidekick.  I haven’t been able to move from one room to the next without my chocolate shadow at my side or under my feet.  Her snoring has been a constant in my study—along with some other less pleasant aromatic effects.  I can’t imagine being here without her even though I am right now.  I knew today was coming, but I guess I really didn’t.

So here I sit.  Waiting to hear from Chuck.  Waiting for them to pull in the driveway and wondering if this really is it.  Is she really gone from our lives?  Will I never have to hold her paw through another stormy night or clean up her drool from the floor?  Will I never hear her nails clicking across the floor and her banging on my bedroom door to get close to me?  I can’t believe it until I see them and know for sure.  And isn’t it strange that I will miss even the things I’ve griped the most about?

I hugged her neck as I left this morning to walk with my friends.  She lumbered over slowly wagging her tail and I kissed her head.  Was it really good-bye?  As I told my daughter last night, “This is it!  I can’t take it again—no more pets for me.”  Then we both smiled and said together, “Except for the next one … and the five cats we already have.” 

Good-bye sweet Mary.  You were more than worth it.


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