A Good Girl

In her favorite chair, 2009.
Dakota in her favorite chair, 2009.

My dog Dakota moved on from this earth last Tuesday. A cream-colored lab mix, Dakota’s body has been reduced to ashes in a box that I’m keeping next to me on my bed at the moment. It’s her old spot, when she could get to it. In the last few months of her life she couldn’t always leap onto my bed due to the pain. Her kidney disease caused stomach pain and a loss of appetite, so Dakota had dropped to 42 pounds from her normal weight of 55. Dakota was a happy dog to the end, in spite of the pain that I tried to manage with medication. It’s hard to know how much pain she felt because dogs don’t speak English, but she only cried a couple of times in the months before she moved on. Her last night was spent on my bed with me.

I feel really guilty that I haven’t cried more over my dog’s death. I put her down on June 16th, so it’s been almost two weeks. I cried that day and only once again later.

On the day of her death, Dakota had woken up feeling fine, but a couple hours later after she’d gone outside, she couldn’t get up the stairs into the house. My roommate and I helped her up the stairs, and from there she had trouble walking. She kept crying, yelping, trying to get comfortable, so I took her to the ER. This was the third time in two weeks that this had happened, but the other two times she’d come out of it after about an hour. She cried the whole way to the ER, and I felt like it was time. The vet agreed.

I’d thought I’d have more time, that I’d schedule her anesthesia in advance, and spend the last day with her, maybe at the park, maybe with a big steak after a night of spooning and kisses. But instead I’d slept with her on my bed and not much spooning or kisses, because I was tired, and she’d gotten up to move around several times, once putting her face in mine, probably to let me know it was her last night with me, and I didn’t really pay enough attention. I wish I’d kissed her snout and looked into her espresso eyes. She loved looking into my eyes, and I always wondered what was going on inside her head. The weekend before I’d spent at my boyfriend’s house because I’m madly in love with him and can’t stand to be without him for one second, even when my dog’s dying of kidney disease.*

The next Wednesday after I’d had her put down, I told a friend, who was shocked at my calm demeanor, exclaiming that she’d be sobbing uncontrollably if she’d just had her dog put down. I wanted to congratulate her for winning the game of who’s the better person, but I know she didn’t mean it like that. She doesn’t know what she’d do if her dog died because we just don’t know what we’ll do in any given situation until it happens.

Dakota was a good girl, a true example of unconditional love. She loved me more than she loved anyone. Somehow she knew I was her human companion. My brother-in-law had taken her out of her cage at the shelter when I’d adopted her twelve years ago, but she knew I was her human. Never did she think my ex-husband was the one, but she knew that I was. Before I’d gotten her, someone else had adopted her for four months and then returned her to the shelter, so she had separation anxiety issues. She wanted love so badly. She followed me wherever I went, and my ex-husband told me that she waited at the door at night for me to come home from work. I hope Dakota knows how deeply loved she was, is, and always will be. I hope that if there’s another world after this one that her soul is full of joy, and that she’s with Lulu, her feline best friend who moved on from this earth in 2011. Rest in peace, Dakota. I love you with all my heart.

*Dakota wasn’t alone that last weekend; she was in good hands with my roommates who reported that she was doing well — I did check in on her to make sure she was okay.

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