Meet my dog:
Her name is Laika. Yes, I know that’s the same name as the dog the Russians sent into space. No, we didn’t pick the name. The dog shelter did. If I had my name, Id’ve probably called her Artemis or Isis or something. If my dad had his way, her name would be Pol, which is Dutch for Paul.
The reason I bring her up is because I just watched This Video, and by the end I started crying, and had to walk over to my bed, where she’s laying, and hug the living shit out of her. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s still soaked.
Several months ago, right after she had a minor surgery to remove some benign tumors, she got a mammary gland infection. This coupled with the fact that she was still recovering from said surgery meant that she was at her weakest point ever. She barely ate, had great difficulties using stairs (and whoever has visited me before knows we have way too many stairs), and couldn’t lie down or piss/shit properly because the stitches hurt too much. One night I couldn’t find her until I went all the way downstairs, to the hallway, where it was cold (it was winter, if I remember correctly) and found her just… standing there, staring at the ground. Only after I called her name did she notice I was there and look up at me. It was probably my overly emotional mind, but I swear the look in her eyes was saying ‘I’m dying’. I tried to convince her to come upstairs with me, but she wouldn’t. The stairs were too high. I couldn’t lift her because I feared I’d tear her stitches, and she was too heavy for me to carry her up a flight of stairs without any real risk of dropping her. I was starting to freeze so I hugged her, then left her, trying to keep back my tears. I did not sleep that night.
All of this happened just over a year after my grandmother’s death, which was the first real loss I had ever experienced. Back then I wrote about how that event made me face my own mortality, and the emotional shockwave that sent throughout my entire being. Now I was confronted again with the possibility of someone else very close to me dying. This made me realize several things about my dog: Firstly, she had become so much more to me than just a pet. She’s become this weird mix between a baby sister and a daughter to me. She is also one of the best friends I ever had. Definitely the most loyal one. For the eleven years we’ve had her she was always there to listen, or to be hugged, or just to dick around with. I don’t know anyone else who has been consistently there for half my life. I know that she’s ‘just a dog’ and that she’ll do basically anything her mistress tells her to, but still. There were moments in my life I pretty much had no one to turn to. No one except my dog. And at times, the love I received from her was all that got me through some darker times.
And that night I was faced with the reality that my friend, my daughter/sister is mortal, and might die very soon. She’s getting old: 12 years old of a mutt-ness that rarely lives past 15. Ever since that night, I’ve occasionally had dreams about waking up and finding her no longer breathing, eyes glazed over, body going cold and stiff. And I honestly have no idea what I would do should that happen.
I know people who bond pretty closely with their cats. For some reason I don’t. I have lost five cats in my life and haven’t shed a tear for a single one. But the idea that something might happen to my dog can send me into a crying fit that can last for ages.
I know one thing for sure, though. If ever we need to put her down, I want to be in the room when it happens. I don’t care if the experience breaks me, I don’t want her last emotions to be feelings of fear of the unknown. Not without a familiar face or scent to make her feel safe.
I owe her that much.