Three nights ago, my mom texted to let me know that Trudy, my dog of 16 years, was leaving us. The next day, I took off work and drove out to my parents’ house to spend the whole day with her. The entire drive I listened to Laura Marling, because usually she makes me feel stronger. But not this time. I cried. I sobbed.
I let myself in to my parents’ house, and as I shut the door behind me, I heard the familiar jangle of the tags on Trudy’s collar. I expected to see her run around the corner, barking, like always. But she didn’t. Instead, she only sat up in her bed and whined at me as I came over. That was enough.
“Hi baby,” I said, and sank to the floor next to her bed. I cradled her small head in my hands and kissed her forehead, then both of her temples. I don’t know why, but I have always liked to kiss her temples.
I helped her lie back down. She was so much thinner than when I had last seen her.
She didn’t want to put her head down and go back to sleep. As I sobbed next to her, there on the floor, she kept looking at me, like “What’s wrong?” Dogs always know when something’s wrong.
After a while, I moved to the couch, as close as I could be to her. I watched Disney movies. I cried.
She just slept. So peaceful.
It was pouring rain on and off all day. I kept catching myself thinking about how if it were sunny, I could have taken Trudy on one last walk. But then I’d remember that she was too weak.
My parents came home from work and we ate Mexican food and watched TV.
Trudy got up at one point and walked all the way outside and back inside.
I am realizing now that that may have been the very last time she got up. But even if it wasn’t, I’m glad she got to be outside, even if for only a few minutes, on her last day. I’m glad she got to smell the world and poke her little nose through the doggy door one last time. To walk back into the living room to see her People waiting for her. One last time.
I said goodbye to her around 9pm. I didn’t want to leave. I had to leave. I patted her on the head. She didn’t lift it this time.
“Bye, baby. I love you. Be good.”
It’s what I always said to her when I left, back to LA.
“I love you. Be good.” Until I’d see her again.
This was the last time though.
I stopped at the hallway leading to the front door and looked back at her. Her eyes were closed.
That night, just a few hours after I left her, she died in her sleep. She went peacefully.
I don’t know if she was waiting for me to come home…waiting to say goodbye to me before she went away. Maybe it was only a coincidence, that she died the same night that I said my goodbye to her. It feels like more than that. But I don’t know.
All I know is that now my baby girl is gone from this world. I won’t ever get to see her tail wag again. I won’t get to hear her bark. I won’t get to feel her warm fur. I won’t get to kiss her temples.
Trudy was Home, in the same way my parents, my siblings, my best friends, and now Joe, are Home. And now I have lost her. I have lost a part of my life. My self.
I want my dog back.
I miss her. I miss my friend.
Last night I dreamt of her all night long. When I woke up, I felt like I had gotten no sleep at all. My heart was empty. I told Joe, “I had bad dreams.” But now, an hour later, I have decided that they were not bad dreams. They were dreams about her. I got to see her again.
Goodbye, my baby. Thank you for living your wonderful life with me. Thank you for comforting me when I cried, even up to your last moments. Thank you for making me laugh. Thank you for making me miss you; the pain only confirms how fucking lucky I was to have you for as long as I did.
I love you.
“I also buried a part of my life along with my dog.”
-Wilson Rawls, Where the Red Fern Grows