I am preparing myself for a trip to the vet with Stella this morning. She won’t be coming back. I have watched her slowly decline over these last few days until she was abjectly refusing any of the necessities of life — food, water, trips outside to the bathroom. My wonderful brother Drew, who has taken us in these last few days and extended the offer until I’m ready to leave, told me that this means her will to live is gone and she’s just hanging around for me. I can’t let her do that.
She has been a loyal friend to the end, even choosing this time to go. She accompanied me to DC but couldn’t stay. But she got me there. And, frankly, I’m not sure I can handle being there without her. But I’m going to try. What’s more, I’m unencumbered by the need to get immediately back — I’ve had the luxury of being able to stay and care for her as long as I needed. Again, she couldn’t have picked a better time. She was always that way — never complicating things, just simplifying. And she’s in there now, just sleeping and occasionally fighting for breath. Just slowly fading. But I can’t let her suffer for me. I wouldn’t be a friend to her.
This relationship with her — this love and loss — is one i’ve not experienced before. Growing up we had dogs, but never were they allowed indoors. My father is old-school, from the Georgia mountains, and dogs were outside animals. Cats, too. So the joys and trials of sharing a home with an animal came later. And I never sought it out — Stella was one of a bunch of puppies left in a laundry room at one of my first apartments and I was quite literally tricked into taking her. I liked the puppies my property manager was trying to find homes for, but I didn’t want one. I was too busy with work and negotiating my first really intense relationship to bother with the responsibility of a puppy. Just take her for an hour, they said. Fine. For an hour.
13 years later, Stella remains the reason I made it through that first real relationship. She let me cry on her for almost four years of navigating the rough waters of young love. And then later, as I grew and my needs changed, she listened to me as I worked out who I was, what I would accept, where I wanted to go. And occasionally, along the way, others fell in love with her, too. My father, the crusty mountain-man, most notably. My parents — mom, nursing a slight fear of dogs her whole life — even let me bring her in and keep her in a room when I would go home. Their dog stayed outside of course. But Stella stayed with me. Stella had a grin you see. She literally smiled when she saw someone she loved. And that old mutt tail of hers would start to swinging. And you couldn’t help it — she was ridiculous and silly and pampered and gentle and fiesty and lazy. And you just couldn’t help it. She snuck into the heart and wouldn’t leave. I had one boyfriend who, by the end of our relationship, was really okay if I went but I think losing the Stel was something that made him almost reconsider losing me. He used to let her sleep in the bed when I wasn’t welcome. I need to let him know that the old girl has gracefully and gently chosen her time to go. That’s how she was. Elegant and gentle, with a giant smile and a heart to match.
I write now because in a few hours I won’t be able to. I have cried my eyes out until I think I can’t cry anymore. But I know I can. I know I will. I’ve been trying to think about what I have to do when my time in Atlanta this trip is through — I have freelancing work to complete, freelancing work to find, follow-up interview emails to send, job announcements to apply for, friends to contact, relationships to strengthen. I have to touch base, reconnect, get to work. I have to find my own unique place in this world while letting go of one of the things that defined that uniqueness. Right now especially that’s something that scares me. But I have to try to stick with the plan and try to make a life for myself in my new city, even though all I want to do right now is lay on the floor and rub the old girl’s ears and make time stop so I don’t have to feel this way. I have to live.
But Stella doesn’t. She’s done enough and I have to let her go. I’m just not sure what things will be like without her. And I’m sad. But one thing that the old girl always did was help put a new perspective on things. Because she made me laugh. And so, I gotta send her off with joy somehow. And somehow I will.
UPDATE: Heard this on the way there and it’s always been a special song for me. It brought the joy I was seeking to bring to the situation. Blue was the old girl’s nickname. It’s not an overly happy song so you may not get why it brought the joy, but it has had great significance for me in life in a million different ways. And now there’s one more. I’ve so loved being tangled up in Blue.
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