The last promise

By Claire Goodman, MANAGING EDITOR
Posted 8/29/19

Facebook memories are such a grab bag of emotions. One day Facebook reminds you of your weekend getaway with your girlfriends, and the next it reminds you that your 15-year-old-dog died two years …

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The last promise

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Facebook memories are such a grab bag of emotions. One day Facebook reminds you of your weekend getaway with your girlfriends, and the next it reminds you that your 15-year-old-dog died two years ago. It also reminded me of the post I wrote that day. I’m sharing it in my column not only in Gracie’s honor, but in honor of National Dog Day and all the dogs that humans have loved over the past 20,000 years:

I don't know the exact point that Gracie became "ours". Maybe it was the moment she decided to sleep under our car. Maybe it was the moment when we decided to keep her despite the severity of her health problems. Maybe it was when we paid the vet $2,000 to treat the heartworm, hookworm, roundworm, and mange that plagued the poor thing. Or maybe it was the time we clipped a shiny new tag with the name "Gracie" onto her collar.

Either way, in the moment that she became "ours", I made her a promise. It's a promise made by everyone who truly loves an animal. Though almost always unspoken, it's whispered in the hearts of each one of us when we bring a pet into our heart. And the day Gracie became mine, I made a list of promises to her.

"I promise to love you and protect you."

You were a good dog.

We loved you before we had our babies, but when they came into the world, you became their protector. Your love for them melted my heart. When the snake got into the house and you heard Jack scream, you tore into the room like a fuzzy ball of murder. I had to hold you back to keep you from attacking it and getting bitten. But you showed me that your regard for your own life meant nothing to you compared to the safety of your kid. I never looked at you the same again after that. You had ascended to a new level. We loved you beyond words, and of all the vows I made to you, this was the easiest to keep. It was a joy to love you.

"I will provide for you and keep you healthy. If you get sick, I will see to it that you get the very best medical care."

You weren't cheap. Even after the initial treatments for all your horrible conditions, you were the most expensive "free dog" we'd ever had. We fed you the best dog food we could find. We kept you on monthly preventatives. When you tore your nails off trying to jump the baby gate, we took you in and got you stitched up. When the vet felt a mass in your abdomen, we paid for the ultrasound. When it turned out that the potential tumor was a rat you were having trouble digesting, we were grossed out but laughed anyway. You weren't cheap, but we kept this promise to you.

"I will dedicate myself to training you properly. If you anger me or disappoint me, I will remember that you are a dog, and it is my job to train you."

Oh Gracie, you naughty dog. Your litany of transgressions is staggering. How many times did you break into the pantry and raid the trash? Remember when you ate ten chocolate cupcakes? We were all terrified that you were going to die, but you were perfectly fine. And then there was the time the vet said you were too fat, so we put you on a diet. You didn't like that, so the second I turned my back you jumped up on the kitchen counter and an entire stick of butter. After that we just let you be fat.

Truly, though, you were a good girl. You quickly learned what was expected of you. But food got you in trouble. We never really blamed you for it though. After all, you were starving to death when we found you. Maybe you just never learned to let go the fear that you would one day find yourself abandoned and hungry again.

"No matter what life brings us, I will never leave you or abandon you. You will be mine from this day until your last."

I don't know what kind of Hell you endured before you found us. The vet said you'd been on the street for months. Maybe someone hurt you. Either way, you'd known neglect and cruelty before you found us. You never really let go of your fear. You needn't have worried though. You were ours.

"And finally, when the end comes, I will not let you suffer. I will not make you stay with me when your spirit is ready to be freed from a failing body. I will let you go, no matter how badly I want to keep you. And when your heart beats its last, you will die in my arms."

This promise was the hardest.

You had lived a long time. We saw you slowing down. Your eyes that had seen so much love began to cloud. Your joints that once launched you up into our arms began to stiffen. You slept a lot. But you were still in there.

Then one day, something wasn't right. You were disoriented and drooling. You didn't recognize the children or me. Your precious babies. You didn't know them. You refused to lay or sit down. You just stood there, panting and shaking, confused and afraid.

It was time to keep my final promise to you. I can't tell you how hard it was to let you go.

The vet thinks it was a stroke that took you from us. I knew what I had to do, but I didn't want to. I wanted to keep you with me. I wanted to give into the selfish part of me that needed you in my life.

I kept my promise. I thought about trying to be strong so that you wouldn't be upset, but in the end I couldn't. I sobbed and shook and clutched the body that had once housed your soul.

Like all dogs, you were too good for us: too good for this world. So here's a final promise I make you to:

"I will never ever forget you."

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