A single week.
A single week is all it took, and it really wasn't even that long. One week you turn nine years old and then, only eight days later, you're lying down on the counter at the veterinarian clinic. Sound asleep, for the last time.
Of course, you're not you by then, because you're dead. You're dead but, if that's the case, why do I, why do we, still love you so dearly as if you were still with us?
You were the best dog, Simba. Let's start there. You were the best dog. All dog owners say that, sure, but it's true for you. (All dog owners also say that, but whatever.) You were the best dog.
That's what dogs are for, you know? Being the best, and you certainly was, Simba. A little over nine years ago, we bought you for my mom's birthday, my sister and I and anyone else who chipped in that wanted it. We loved you right away because you were so cute with your caramel brown fur and your little grey patch on your nose. So loving too and, well let's keep that for later.
You were the best dog, Simba, which isn't to say that you were perfect. You never really listened to us when we went out for a walk and that's why we always needed to keep you on a leash. (That and because the City of Montreal has now started to decide to enforce the rules on that matter.) You ate whatever you could find that had even just the tiniest hint of a smell of any kind, and that's why we never fed you our food regardless of how much you have liked us to.
So Simba? Not perfect, because no one is, not even the best dog.
You also had some sort of arthritis problem and, at the end, renal failure. That's what ultimately killed you in all of three days too; earlier I said it was a week, but it was really three days.
That's what makes this so hard and so sad, that it happened so suddenly. Last Monday evening, my mom took you to the vet because you were so lethargic, and we left you there for monitoring and care. We went to visit you on Tuesday evening, then I went again on Wednesday morning before work. Remember, Simba? They let me take you out for a walk outside and, for a short minute, you were happy again. Hell, you gave me the tiniest of licks to my ear when I approached my face to you, something you always loved to do, so of course you were happy.
You were happy but you were so, so weak; I had to lift you in my arms to bring you back in. That broke my heart, Simba. I remember leaving the clinic afterward and damn, well I had to sit down on a bench nearby just a little bit. I cried because it frightened to know you were hurting. Then, that Wednesday night, my mom went to the clinic to pick you up. You were coming back home, Simba, where you would be with mom and all your things. You would be at the place where you changed our lives.
We knew what this meant, that we were bringing you back to let you pass away. But we wanted to bring you back to where you were most comfortable, if only for a little bit longer.
On Thursday morning before going to the office, I stopped by my mom's. I could see you through the glass door as I arrived, you were lying down on the kitchen floor. I opened the door and you lifted your head from the floor ever so slightly and turned it just a tiny bit toward the door, then stopped and put it back down. That was all you could manage. Before, when you were healthy, you would always run to the door when someone walked in (especially if it was a woman). You didn't this time on Thursday, because you couldn't. You were suffering too much and were too weak, and all you could manage was that tiny and slow nod of the head.
Let me tell you what, Simba, I cherish that nod so damn much. Even when you had nothing left, you still said hi. I cried again, it was so sad, because I loved and love you so much. Still, I knew you knew it was me because I saw your tail wag when I got closer to you. I think that part of me then knew this was it. You would die that Thursday, maybe not with me, maybe just later in the day when I was at the office. But I would have to say bye to you that morning.
I didn't want you to die, obviously, even as it became clearer and clearer that you were suffering so much. That was selfish of me, but that's a little bit of what having a dog is, right? You get a dog in part because you want the unconditional love and loyalty—and there's nothing wrong with that. But having a dog is also selfless, another person to care for.
That Thursday morning, I cared for you.
Really, there wasn't much I could do, Simba, and I would be lying if I said it doesn't still affect me, seeing you like that. All I could do was wait, with you, for you to die. When it's someone you love, that's an awful, awful feeling. You're powerless and hopeless.
I picked you up from the kitchen floor—you couldn't stand on your own—and brought you to your favourite couch. We stayed together like that for an hour, me with my left hand on your torso, or by your head, and you lying down, still and your entire body feeling numb, with your eyes shut and your breathing slowing down and deepening quickly.
Everyone told me, later, that I helped comfort you at a time when you must have been incredibly scared. I guess I did that, yeah, that I comforted you when you needed it most but, like, you still died. Right? I know I'll look back and be so happy I was there for you then... but you still died.
I remember one moment thinking that it was happening then. You had had a few tremors but that one, at around 10 o'clock, was different. It felt like a seizure, a massive one too, or what I understand what these are like. For a good 20 to 30 seconds, your whole body tensed up and it seemed like you couldn't breathe? I thought that was it and had my mom, whom you always saw as your master, been there, then maybe that would have been? I'm sure you wanted to see her before passing and maybe that's why you kept fighting. I held on to you during the seizure and, somehow, it passed. You weren't dead, not yet.
That's when I let my mom know though. It was time, and she left work, and I FaceTime'd my sister in Newark to let her know too; she said goodbye to you. Then once my mom got here, we left for the clinic, and we brought you in. And you left us.
At the end, you were so weak and suffering, and that's not who I'll remember. Simba, I'll remember the eternal teenager, the dog who even as he turned nine years old (again, just eight days before your death) was confused for a puppy by strangers on the street. I'll remember all the silly and endearing nicknames I gave you. I'll remember how much you loved to walk and stay outside, laying down on our balcony and under the sun seemingly to tan. I'll remember how you kept gnawing at our heels when we ate when you were just a puppy. I'll remember that you loved to play with a ball, that it was fun to go fetch it but that it was even more fun to play keep-away afterward. I'll remember how much you loved your dog treats. How spoiled you were. How we gave you your food and you ate it whenever you wanted.
I'll remember that one time in winter when we came back from a walk and I took off your leash as we were on our balcony and I was about to unlock our door; you ran to the street then, making me chasing you until the next intersection, and I had to jump after you in the snow. I'll remember that one time you and my baby brother played together in the snow and how you had finally found a friend that was your age. I'll remember too that one time at the dog park where two dogs fought; all the other dogs crowded around them but you kept away, looking for me. You were scared shitless and I remember thinking then it was just as well because I was too.
I'll remember how you didn't always care when I walked in at my mom's house but how you would also perk up if a woman did. It was okay because I know how much you loved me. That's what I'll remember. That, and how we'd always play together, you laying on your back and me running my hands around close to your mouth to drive you crazy as you tried to playfully bite my hand. I'll remember how, when you were especially tired, you would sleep on your back, that always fascinated everyone.
I'll remember how loving and loyal you were, how much you loved us and how you showed it to us by licking us; we'd pet you and you would lick us if we'd let you, on our hands. You would lick me on my feet, that was our deal, I guess because I have terribly smelly feet? I don't know. I'll remember how much you lived in the present and nothing but the present.
I'll remember how I could aways rile you up by doing that thing I always did with my arms, lifting them up and feigning surprise. I'll remember how quickly, when we got you, you became a staple of our home, of our lives. I'll remember how joyful you were and how I'ld always smile when I saw you.
I'll remember how I still do.