My Daughter’s Smile Told Me It Was Time
by Katherine A. Rayne
It keeps happening. This dog of mine. I cleaned up diarrhea three times yesterday and twice today. He knows to run and hide. I love this dog. But.
He came about in a destructive way. My way of lashing out I THINK, but I’m not sure. Because I’m not a lasher-outer. Ten years ago, I was finished with dogs as far as I knew. My little sweet Yorkshire/Chihuahua mix, Beau, lived for 17 years, thank you, God. He was my lovey little guy. He was my baby before I had babies. He was my dependence during my independence of living on my own. My mom decided (thankfully) that it would be wonderful for me to have a puppy in my new home. I was the last of four daughters to move out and I think she wanted to make sure I wasn't lonely. I didn't even say the word and she was out looking. She found Beau for me at the Humane Society. She sold me on him before I even saw him. And OMG she was so right. Not necessarily the cutest little puppy ever (by no means ugly), but his personality shined so bright. How on earth was he the last taken of a litter of four? They must have all had the light. He was happy whether I picked him or not. He was playing with some un-toy in his cage, looking me over and smiling, then back to his un-toy. He had me at play. My little guy.
Over the years, I watched as friends’ dogs passed away and were put to sleep. Putting to sleep, I always said, I could never do that. When he goes, he goes on his own. I can’t make the choice for him. Until that day 17 years later. Until he could no longer eat because of the tumor on the roof of his mouth. The sadness in his eyes that showed more than the cataracts. The hunger over the food that he wanted but gave him pain instead of satiation. It was after 10:00 pm and we came home, my family of four, after a late night of visiting, and we saw it in his eyes. Time. It was time. He couldn't move. We took him to the emergency animal clinic, not because we decided to, but because no one could speak and we knew we had to do something. The four of us drove silently towards the veterinarian. I was holding his quiet weak body but don’t remember the ride.
Months before, we’d learned that he had cancer and his doctor had told us that we should have mercy by not putting his 17-year old blind, deaf, arthritic body through chemo and surgery. Now there at the clinic, through my tight lips and wet eyes I could only say, “It’s time,” to the stranger who kindly looked us over to decide if he should argue it or not, not knowing my dogs’ history. My son, quiet, my daughter, too young to know, their dad holding her while I snuggled Beau taking a needle. He left a small hollow in my heart with his last breath. It wasn't easy, but it felt right.
At 17 years old, he had his weaknesses. Cleaning up after him was not unusual, but until the end he always avoided carpets, the sweet little guy. So thinking about another dog was not on my mind. He was irreplaceable, and I wasn't up for more cleaning up of a potty-training new puppy, either.
Fast forward almost two years later. Say “I” if you have ever bought a dog at the pet store at the mall because heeeee’s sooooo cuuuuute! I wasn't planning to. I always took my son to a hair salon at the mall to get his hair cut. While he was having that done, I’d take my 3-year old to look at the puppies. There he was each time we went. Cute. Sweet. Pretty. Addictive. Every time we were at the mall, we’d visit the pet store and there he would be. Less expensive than the last time. Still prancing around with his head high no matter how long he’d been there.
It began when I Googled “Papillion.” I think I was Googling for reasons not to consider him becoming a family member, but I couldn't find any. My son was by now ALSO in love with him. He wanted him more than anyone else, but the answer was still no. Then one visit I felt my daughter’s smitten smile spread to me as she gently played with him. I realized that if I didn't get a dog, my little girl would not know having one.
I brought him home while their dad was out of the country. No notice whatsoever. Not even to myself. I did it before I chickened out. Of course he wanted me to return the little guy. Can you return dogs? I have never tried before OR then. He was adamant, but I had a lot of ammunition in my corner to use, to remind him of alllllll the big decisions he’d made without me. I also reminded him that he was the one that put a doggy shower in when building his dream house when we no longer had a dog. He’d planted the seed. It grew.
This Papillion, Muffin. He’s no Beau. But he’s awfully sweet and cute and lovable and pretty. Even I call him a she. He is a yappy dog. He’s my doorbell echo. Everyone outside is there to kill us, in his little overprotective mind. I don’t tolerate it well even after eight years, but hopefully my neighbors do. He took forever and a day to become potty-trained, which I found to be my weakest area of tolerance. He swallowed my daughter’s first lost tooth. I did some excavating later that day outside to retrieve it. (It was her first tooth!) He pooped ON my kitchen table after jumping up there and being stuck the whole day while I was out. Disgusting and hard to divulge. He’s peed on throw pillows on purpose. He’s even pooped on my BED.
This little guy sleeps with me in my bed most nights. As much as he’d love to be king there, I won’t allow it. I have to remind him that he’s just a dog. He states his disapproval with a loud sigh from his tiny six-pound body. One recent morning, I discovered poop in my shower. I guess he’s picking up Beau’s habit of avoiding carpets. I always talk about finding silver linings, but it’s hard to when you find poop in your shower.
I get so mad. But then I look into those eyes. Innocence intensified. Soul-saturation. Apologetically sad. And when I pick him up, he tucks his head under my chin and reminds me that he’s just a dog. Lovable, poetically cute, and pretty. And my daughter knows that love. There are the nights when he sleeps at her feet. Using his growls to keep her safe and separated from the night sounds. It makes it easier to forgive finding poop there.