Tonight I took our recently adopted dog for a walk as my dear husband was feeling a bit under the weather this evening. I've been thinking about how nice it is to have a dog in my life again. This dog reminds me of another I knew a long time ago....
I grew up with Muffin. The best dog in the entire world. She ruined me for all dogs. She was loyal, playful, cuddly, easy-going...she was awesome. Muffin was the kind of dog that would spend the whole night with me when I was sick. She would comfort me when I was sad. She was a part of my birthday present when I was 8 years old. She came a few months after our original puppy, Taffy, had to be put to sleep because of a heart defect. I have to tell you that was heartbreaking for a little kid. (And by the way, I did NOT name these dogs. These names were the brilliant idea of my 90 IQ former step-mother. Even at 8 years old I thought those names were terrible.)
Muffin was really smart, too. She learned all kinds of tricks. I taught her every one of them. I always had kind of a gift for that. I taught her to sit, lay down, stay, shake hands and roll over. She was not the best on a leash, but of course this was many years before Cesar hit the scene to tell us all that a dog should not walk you.
She lived to the ripe old age of 15. I was 23 years old when Muffin passed away. I remember the scenario pretty vividly. My dad was in the hospital (again) and was preparing for more blood transfusions. Dad lived with his pancreatic cancer for 6 years - unheard of with pancreatic cancer but he had a rare type. In the last couple of years he would go into the ER several times due to low hemoglobin levels. He was always losing blood and would get really weak and need several pints. This time around was pretty bad and they needed to keep him for observation. He needed about 4 units. If you know anything about blood, you know this meant that he was basically missing half of his blood. Crazy, I know. Anyway, I asked Dad if I could do anything for him. He looked at me and simply said, "Muffin." And I knew what he meant.
You see, Muffin had been getting a little senile. She was having trouble holding her bowels anymore. My dad loved that dog so much. Every evening, as sick as he was, he would clean the basement floor with bleach water after Muffin had used the basement floor as her toilet. She could not be in the house anymore so spent her time in a makeshift pen in the basement. Dad made sure she had plenty of room, food and water, a nice fluffy bed, toys, etc. She had cataracts and had trouble recognizing us sometimes so was beginning to get a little snippy with us, which was SO unlike her.
So, that day from my dad's hospital bed he asked me to take Muffin to be put to sleep.
I said to him, "Dad, I was thinking I'd get you some magazines or something. That's what I meant when I asked if you needed anything."
He explained it like this, "Pussycat, I can't do it. I don't have the physical strength anymore but I don't think I can handle taking her in to do that. I know this is a big favor but I need you to do this for me."
I couldn't say no. This was the guy who had always been there for me. The guy that, in spite of his faults had always done everything he could for me. He asked me this favor and I had to do it.
The day I took Muffin in to be put down it was overcast. Muffin went outside and ran around in the back yard, which is something I hadn't seen her do in a while. I took her for her last walk around the block and she seemed almost peppy. She had a treat (a Pupperoni) and was just really, really happy. I wondered if maybe this was a mistake. Maybe I should do it another day. You don't know how hard it was to take her that day, especially seeing the old Muffin again.
I thought I'd just take her in and leave her with the vet but I soon discovered that I just couldn't do that to her. Not after everything she'd done for me. During those times of my childhood that I felt like nobody loved me or I was in the way, she was there to remind me that I meant everything to her. She comforted me through skinned knees, the flu, a broken heart. Now she needed comfort and I was going to give it to her.
I said goodbye to Muffin that day and cried a lot, maybe more than I ever had. And maybe I was crying for more than just losing her but for the knowledge that my dad would never get better. In a weird way it prepared me for losing my dad. Though I'd lost a grandparent already at that point, I'd never experienced anything like losing someone that I lived with every day. Muffin was the first. I imagine her now with Dad in heaven or whatever you want to call it. It comforts me to imagine her keeping him company.
Yes, it's nice to have a dog in my life again. That kind of love is priceless.