When I was young we had to put one of our dogs to sleep. He was a big black furry dog named Newton who suffered from epileptic fits and wandering paws. He liked to run away. Maybe he was trying to escape whatever demons haunted him in his head or maybe he was just free spirited or maybe he was just stupid. Whatever the reason, we had to put him down. Not because he ran away — it was the epilepsy that caused concern in the hearts of my benevolent parents. If you have never seen a dog or an animal or even a person have a seizure it is quite an amazing and unfortunate thing — in Newton’s case, it involved him slamming into whatever was near and generally spazzing out all over wherever he was. It looked like a veritable orgy of pain and discomfort, and it was dangerous for us to be around as that his snapping jaws, flailing paws, and giant girth were flung all over heaven’s creation. If he was a miniaturized poodle, or simply much smaller, things might have worked out better for him — but as the case was, we couldn’t keep him and no one seemed to want a giant slobbering epileptic pet who was interested in visiting different zip codes during his free time.
My parents told us that they would put him to sleep. The idea of killing Newton didn’t bother me — he was miserable and he was a dog and, as I believe I have made clear, lots of money could be saved if we employed a more Kevorkian approach to medicine. I was, and still am, all for euthanasia. And I wasn’t particularly sad to see him go — I didn’t really like him and who could? He was big and hairy and slobbery and obnoxious and bothersome and altogether uncouth (which is how I turned out, interestingly enough). But on the day he was scheduled to be put down I did go out into the yard, where he was chained to a steak in the ground like a prisoner on death row, to pet him one last time. I put my arm around his head, something I had never done before, and pushed my face into his ears. I was still pretty young but I realized then how fleeting life was. He is here with me now, I thought, but tomorrow he will be gone. And that made me sad. I knew I wouldn’t miss him and didn’t care that I wouldn’t see him again, but I was standing next to living proof that nothing in life was immutable; that this too shall pass; that I couldn’t depend on anything because it was all coming to end eventually; that one day someone would be holding me and that would be it — my time will have come too soon.
If each visit by #6 was supposed to make parting easier it did not. And if each visit was supposed to make my heart any less full it did not. And if each visit was supposed to go by slower than the last, it most certainly did not. Crater Lake passed by so quickly I can only remember trying to hold desperately to the moments as they slipped through my fingers like giant dog ears. I couldn’t stay awake long enough and I couldn’t hold her tight enough and I couldn’t make us not have to part long enough. The entire experience was a constant reminder of the ephemeral nature of my own existence and my only solace came from the understanding that she and I had something more together than we had had apart.
While she might not have been the quick kiss I had been in search of, she might well be what I have always been looking for.
And she was gone.