Dear Roxy

IMG_5692Dear Roxy,

As I type this the tears are already filling my eyes and my heart aches to be with you for just one more minute. The thought that you're not here is so surreal and I wonder when I'll stop expecting to see you in your bed out of the corner of my eye or to hear the slow click of your nails as you walk across the room to get some water. Maybe it's wishful thinking, maybe it's because you were always around.

You joined our family when I was 13 and left it shortly after you turned 13. I remember insisting to my dad that we get a dog from the pound. It was winter break, between Christmas and New Years, if I remember correctly. I don't remember what shelter it was, I don't remember how many we visited or how many other dogs we looked at, all I remember was you. A little wiggly brown and black puppy in a kennel with a little black and white puppy that ironically (or maybe it's just my memory playing tricks on me) looked exactly like your best friend who we got 5 years later, Einstein.

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It makes me sad to say this, but I don't remember a lot about the first half of your life. I was a teenager, doing teenager things and at the time you and our other dog, Jasmine, were outside dogs. As I got older, I realized how to be a better mom to you and started bringing you indoors more. I only wish I had realized this from the start and I hope you aren't mad at me. I remember when it was just you and Einstein. You were his big sister and he loved you so much, he still does to this day. You've always been his security blanket and I don't know how he's going to live without you, but I promise I'll keep him safe.

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Do you remember the time Blaine and I brought you to Big Bear with us? It was our four year dating anniversary and we decided to bring you with us to the little cabin we rented for the weekend. I remember walking you along the lake and you bolting into the freezing water in the middle of October to try and get the ducks. You were already slowing down and nothing made me happier than seeing you so excited and energetic. Do you remember the trouble you got into? We came back to the cabin from going out and you had scratched up the door so bad that we, on our anniversary trip, drove all over Big Bear trying to find paint to fix it. We fixed it up and forgave you. I hope you'll forgave us for scaring you and making you think that we'd leave you there.

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When we moved to Tehachapi you fell in love with the snow. There would be 4" of snow piled on the deck at my parents house and you would happily lay in the snow chewing on a bone, not having a care in the world while the rest of us watched from the doorway. When we got our house I was so happy to be able to give you a huge back yard to retire in and I hope you liked your time here.

You were always the "best dog we've ever had". You always knew exactly how to be the perfect dog, how to act and how to make us love you even more. The only downfall was your obsession with small animals, furiously digging up any gopher hole you came across. Even up until a few months ago when I would whistle and all you dogs would come to the back door, I could tell that you'd been digging because your nose would be covered in dirt. Even on your last day on this earth, after weeks of not really caring, you went out on top of the hill and stuck your nose in every hole almost as if you knew it was your last chance.

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As you got older and slowed down I secretly wondered how much time you had left. When I took you to the vet last year to get a check up, I wanted to make sure you were healthy and both the vet and I were surprised when everything came back totally clear. As winter settled in and it got colder, you got even slower. I watched you struggle to stand up everyday, but you still seemed happy. You had good days and bad days and still loved the warmth of the sun. But when your appetite went away two weeks ago, I got worried. Sometimes mixing in wet food worked, sometimes it didn't. I bought half a dozen kinds of wet food and some chicken, ready to do anything to get you to eat.

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Just as your appetite came back, I watched you have a seizure. It wasn't anything like I expected it to be so I wasn't sure at first, but when I looked it up, I knew that's what had happened. That's when the vomiting started. All these symptoms surfaced so quickly I started to get scared and went from thinking it was old age to something might be wrong. So we went to the vet. I was a little nervous, but you had been been given clean bill of health a couple of months ago so I wasn't ready for what would happen next.

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Roxy, it seems that your liver had given up. When I asked him how quickly you'd decline, he told me "she could pass as soon as tonight" and my heart almost stopped beating. He told me there were some other things that could cause some of these test results, but he was fairly sure your liver was failing and that the other things it could be wouldn't be easy to treat either. I hope I'm remembering these details correctly, but once he walked in the door with your results and shook his head everything around me turned into a huge blur. He told me it was my choice, but if you were his dog, he'd let you go before you started to suffer.

I remember them taking you back to give you some fluids to help you get through the night comfortably while we decided what to do. But I knew what I had to do. For you. I remember sitting in that waiting room forever, looking at every sign on the wall, every spot on the floor, trying to keep my eyes and my mind busy so I wouldn't cry. When you came out, I walked you outside, lifted you into the car, as soon as I sat in the divers seat I lost it. We drove home and I let you out back with everyone else. Blaine came out to see what the vet said and all I could do was shake my head, I couldn't find the words to say that we had to let you go.

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That night we put the blow up mattress in the family room and spent the night in there with you, just in case you needed us. I must have gotten less than two hours of sleep that night. The next day I made calls to vets, trying to find someone to let you pass here, at home, with all of us around you. I didn't want you to be scared, Roxy. But no one would do it. So I spent the day in that room with you, only leaving to go to the bathroom or to go outside with you. I could tell by the look on your face that you were tired and that my emotions were stressing you out so I tried not to smother you too much, you had no idea what was happening and I had to try to be strong for you.

When I heard Blaine pull into the driveway my heart stopped, it was time. We got everyone in the car, cut up some chicken I had made for you and took you on your usual tiny walk to the neighbors and back. I cried the whole time and you slowly walked behind us like any other day. Then we put you in the car and drove to the vet. When we got there Blaine checked us in and I took you on a little walk out in the field. You were way more interested in sniffing around than you had been in weeks and I started to panic. Was the diagnosis wrong? Were you getting better? Did you know this was your last chance to enjoy nature? Before I could run away with you Blaine said they were ready and we were led to the room. We all waited there as a family: you, me, Blaine and the rest of the dogs. The tears had already started to flow before we got there and we fed you little pieces of chicken and comforted you. But you were oblivious, I hope, so we were really just comforting ourselves. I almost got up and took you out of there a hundred times, but I knew I couldn't. When they took you in the back to put a catheter in your leg we waited for what seemed like forever for you to come back.

You walked back in slowly and sat on the blanket the placed on the floor for you. This was it, this was happening. My heart started to race. Everything was happening so fast, I wanted to throw up. We loved on you, cried for you and as the vet tech injected you, you slowly laid down for the last time. And then it was over. It was so quick, I was expecting to have a few more seconds to look into your eyes and tell you we love you, but you were facing the other way and I don't know if you saw me.

Roxy, we love you and I hope that you felt it in your last moments. I hope you weren't scared. After the vet tech let us know you were gone she gave us some privacy. I don't know how long we were in there, everything was happening so fast. All I remember was petting you, burying my face in your side and sobbing as I ran my fingers through your fur and kissed you on the head. Your fur was wet with tears and I remember sobbing so loudly that I knew the whole building could hear me, but I didn't care - you were gone and it hurt more than I ever imagined.

When the vet tech came back in, I tried to gather my strength. I got on my knees, scratched you on the scruff of the neck and kissed you one last time, trying to engrave the way your fur felt in my mind forever. I knew this was the last time you would physically be there for me to hold, that I would never get to see, hear or touch you again.

After we loaded everyone into the back of the car Blaine and I sat in the car for a long time just crying. We finally drove home, Blaine got out and let your brothers and sister in and I just sat in the car. I couldn't go inside. I knew you wouldn't be there and the thought of going inside the house made me sick. After over an hour I was finally able to convince myself to walk inside. It's so empty here without you, Roxy. I'll never forget your signature move: we'd be sitting at the couch and you would paw at our knees or nudge our hands with your nose so we would pet you. I'm sorry for the times I patted you on the head and told you to go lie down because I was distracted. What I wouldn't give for you to walk over and paw at me right now. We talked about how you hadn't done that in a while, how you hadn't done much but sleep lately. Maybe we did do the right thing for you, I hope so.

I know you're ok now, I'd rather be hurting than for you to suffer. But I miss you so much already. Today I kept looking at your collar that Blaine hung on my car mirror, occasionally touching it as I drove. I even glanced at the last place you went to the bathroom, finding myself searching everywhere for any physical evidence that you existed.

It's only been one day and I know in time I'll heal. The pain will fade and, unfortunately, so will the memories. But, Roxy, always remember: you were my best girl, my old lady, my plox-anne, my foxy roxy (or whatever nickname we were using at the time) and my heart physically aches to have you here again. You were, and still are, loved and missed more than you'll ever know.

Love always,

Your mom, Aileen

P.S. when I start to miss you, I like to think of this poem. And even though it makes me cry, I like to pretend it's coming straight from you.

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