Andy pops out of the car with his young owner and runs around the yard. Charles takes to him immediately. They run around together and Charles is conscious that he doesn’t want to look too excited. But I can tell it’s a done deal. Andy will be our dog.
Andy dog is four. Charles is 15.
Years prior in middle school, Charles had made a soul-wrenching appeal in an English paper for a dog. Anyone with a heart would have adopted one in ten minutes after reading it. But I kept my boundary. I had a new business, two kids, one of which was becoming unhinged emotionally. Wasn’t there enough on my plate?
Charles was a lot to handle. Constant event planning, a revolving door of activities and friends, parties, get-togethers, trips to theme parks. Charles was always “on”and demanded a lot of me. He made me laugh. But he also frustrated me. He just never let up because he could never get filled up. His sleep issues meant he was often awake late at night, too and we were seeing drug use and knew he was struggling though we had no answers then. Even at 15, he took a lot out of me. By now, I wondered about depression although he denied it. His anxiety, though, was very obvious and he would admit to that.
For his fifteenth birthday, I shocked everyone by saying that we’d get Charles a dog. I regretted I had not done it earlier. There are people who need a dog. Charles was that kind of person.
Lured by a facebook post of Andy that described him as low maintenance, I reached out to my friend Diane. Her daughter had to move and the new apartment didn’t allow dogs. She had been the third owner. When I showed the picture to Richard and Charles, Richard stormed away from the table in anger, and said, “He’s ugly, I don’t like him.” It was so different than what Richard thought a dog should look like. Where was all the fur? And those pointy ears? I looked at Charles and asked if he still wanted to meet Andy and that it was up to him. (Richard would fall in love with Andy later.)
Andy fetched balls, slept in Charles’s bed, provided him comfort when he struggled and I believe kept him alive for many years. I’m so grateful Charles didn’t leave this earth without having owned a dog.
On the night we got the news Charles had taken his life and we arrived home, it was Andy who felt our despair and hopped in the middle of our pain as we collapsed to the floor. It was Andy who brought us comfort in the wake of the most devastating loss of our lives.
The dog grieved. We grieved. Any time I was sad or cried, there was Andy with his head on my knee looking up at me with his soulful eyes trying to lick my tears.
Andy’s decline in the last month has been rapid. At over 14, his breathing was erratic, he was incontinent, and dementia left him staring at walls. He could barely hear and his sight wasn’t much better. We scheduled euthanasia and the day of he was inpatient and paced on his wobbly back legs. After my husband fed him a steak which he had to eat lying down because he could no longer stand, he laid at my husband’s feet and stared at him with a look that said, “I’m done. I’m really done.” This was an hour before the procedure.
How did he know? As crazy as this sounds, I believe he was grateful. I have no guilt because our animal was hurting. He was ready. But it’s still hard to say goodbye.
The George Clooney of dogs, the animal who gave love as selflessly as Charles, is now in heaven with my youngest son.