Thursday, November 24, 2016
The thing I'm thankful for this year, this awful year?
One thing: eleven years and a few months in the company of this very nearly perfect dog.
As I wrote yesterday's post, he was, as usual in the early morning, dozing at my feet. We'd been out, as usual, and if his walk was even slower than it had become, it was steady. He marched among the fallen leaves and sniffed the trees we passed, a walk far shorter than in years gone by, but done. Back inside, he dozed, and I wrote. Coffee and the crossword puzzle; Wednesday.
Then, an hour or so into the morning his breathing grew more shallow. Soon it was labored and his large, brown eyes looked past us, preoccupied with the terrible business of living, barely. I rang the vet. They told us they were waiting, anytime. We walked - he wanted still to walk, at least as far as our elevator, then no further - out to the car in the cold, clear November air. At the doctor's office, it was all very thoughtful, very quiet, very well done. They knew why we were there, and so did we.
It really didn't take all that long. A couple of forms to sign, a few minutes to spend alone with him. Mr. Muscato and I stood on either side of the table with him, talking softly to him, petting him, wishing him well on his way. He'd just had a bath a day or two ago; he looked so well, and for a while, especially after the first, mild sedative, entirely himself. The vet was kindness personified, almost as teary as we. We stayed alone with him a while, and he very nearly slipped away before they came again with the second anesthetic. Each breath shorter, shallower, spaced apart.
And gone, the mercy of the second drug swift and clean. He looked so well.
We stayed a few minutes more, looking and remembering. Stunned, we went back out into the winter sun. We drank some coffee at a place down the street from the vet, putting off the going home. And then home.
And so we go. Still one dog to distract us, one at the moment in equal parts oblivious and confused. Still, of course, each other, and the knowledge of how lucky in this fragile world we are. But still. We traveled the world with him; he raced with joy into the Indian Ocean and jumped with greater puzzlement into snow drifts here. He marched along Fifth Avenue in the same stalwart way we took that final walk. He was a part of our life in Africa and in the Sandlands and now here. Did I ever tell you he was, for a very little while, a television star? It's true - he appeared on a local soap opera, apparently the first dog ever on the local state TV.
I came home yesterday afternoon and took his bowl from the dishwasher, put it on a high shelf at the back. I took his bed from under the table where I write and tucked it in a closet. That, somehow, of all things, broke my heart, entirely. But life goes on.
And one thing I know: Koko was a very good dog. Good dog, Koko. Good boy...