Friday, September 30, 2016

Heavy

The Animal Hospital where we took Bailey called a couple weeks ago to let us know that her ashes were ready to pick up. I told them I'd be there the next day and I realized later that was a lie. My heart felt heavy when I heard their words. I didn't feel ready to bring her back home because I knew I wasn't really bringing her home. She's gone. 

So I waited. And each day I drove by that place where I left a piece of my heart, I felt heavier and heavier. So I started taking a different route to and from Finnegan's school. If I took a different road, I could try to forget that place and what we did there. I could try to push away that sadness.

But the thing is, I couldn't. I can't. I feel that sadness every day. When I see another Boston Terrier. When the girls call for their Bailey and are confused when we tell them she is gone and can't come back, not ever. When Finnegan tells me he thinks Maxie is lonely and needs a friend again.

I forced myself to drive by that place yesterday and before I could think twice, I put my blinker on and turned left into their parking lot. I parked the car in the loading zone and walked through the doors and saw all the faces who had seen our sadness. A girl smiled brightly at me and I felt shock when I realized she didn't remember me. She asked if she could help me and I sputtered out my words, that I was here to pick up Bailey, and I saw her face flash with recognition. "Oh. Let me get her for you."

She turned to a shelf behind her for a moment and then turned back with a small package in a blue velvet bag and a certificate. I felt myself hesitate to take it from her, but then I reached out preparing myself for the weight of my Bailey.

It's funny how your brain prepares you for tasks. There are certain things we do from memory. Our muscles know... recognize how much strength we need to lift familiar items.

I was shocked by how light the package she handed me was in my hands. I'd expected that familiar weight that was always a comfort in my arms, sitting in my lap, leaning deliberately against my legs letting me know she was there and wanted attention. 

This box felt weightless.

Suddenly I felt even heavier. 

When I got to the car, I looked at the certificate. It's all very official. It states who her family was and on what date she was cremated. I am sure this is an important document for records or whatever, but I imagine it's also there for people to see in black and white. 

This is your loved one. They are gone. The box is light, but it's really them. 

I drove home and carried the box in and gently placed it high on a shelf.  Out of reach from little hands. And out of reach from me too. I don't know what we're supposed to do with her now. I'm not good at any of this. 





Monday, September 12, 2016

How We Said Goodbye

Zoe asked me yesterday what I've written recently for my blog. "Nothing, baby. I haven't written since I wrote about saying goodbye to Bailey."
"Oh. You should write something. I think it's cool you have a blog."

So I pulled up my blog and realized, I didn't write about saying goodbye. Not really. I wrote about how she joined our family and how much we loved her, but I couldn't tell the story of how we knew we had to let her go.

It was a Saturday. After more than a week of her cuddling with us more and making us think maybe she was going to be with us a little bit longer after all, I looked at her and knew she wasn't herself. I held her on my bed and ran my hand over the stripe on the top of her head and around her neck the way she always liked. I kneaded her neck and told her what a sweet girl she was. Her right eye was swollen. Blind for almost four years already, her pretty chocolate eyes had been covered in white clouds, but they looked even more distant, more cloudy. Daniel called our vet and they said we should bring her in.

We called the kids into our room. They had been prepared for over a week. "Bailey isn't well. She's not going to be with us for much longer. We don't know when, exactly - but soon, we will have to take her to the vet and they will give her medicine and she will leave us. She is so sick that she can never get better and she is in pain, so when the vet says it's time, we need to say goodbye. Because we love her and it's our job to make sure she doesn't suffer. She has been our Bailey and she deserves to not feel this pain."

Every day they had checked on her. Before school they would ask me to not take her while they were gone. I promised them that unless it was an emergency, I would wait for them to be home. I would always be honest with them and try to prepare them as well as I could. There were a lot of tears. There was telling stories about what a wild girl she'd been. How much she loved us and watched over all "her babies". We looked at photos of Bailey. She looked so young and strong - no grey hair, sleek, muscular, with those eyes that looked at you so intently, willing you to throw the ball and/or give her a treat.

But she was frail now. She was stretched out on my bed as Zoe and Finn talked to her and pet her. Zoe cried. Finn made jokes. Both dealing with their grief in different ways. I took pictures. Must remember every moment. I wanted to just sit with my girl alone, but she wasn't just mine anymore. She'd been my watcher for years, glued to my side when I was sick and gradually becoming glued to her Zoe and her Finn, to her Molly and Charlotte. She was our family dog. She was our family.

We told the kids the vet wanted to see Bailey. We told them we didn't know for sure what was going to happen, but there was a strong chance that this was the time. We asked them if they wanted to stay home or come with and they did not hesitate to say they wanted to be there. We loaded up into our car. I held Bailey on my lap, wrapped in a towel. I asked the kids if they wanted to come into the exam room, or wait in the lobby. Throughout everything, they were given choices for what they wanted, what their comfort level was. "We want to be with her." 

We sat as a family and waited. I held Bailey tight and fought back tears. The vet looked at her closely. His face was solemn. He examined her, looked at her eyes, gently pressed under her eyes and said she likely had a mass that was pushing her eyes out more. She was in a lot of pain. Again, he repeated what he had told me last week - "She can't tell you she is in pain, but she is. She can't cry, but the pain is excruciating." He left the room for us to talk.

I bent down to the kids. I don't remember my exact words. I know I repeated what the vet had said and then I asked Zoe what she thought. "Do you think we should let her go?" She nodded and said she was scared. She and I cried. Finn fidgeted. I told him it was OK. That we all deal with things differently and whatever he was feeling was OK. 

I walked to the lobby and told them we were ready. I asked how it would happen. I signed papers. I asked if we could pay then because I didn't want to stop on the way out. Daniel and I traded places. He paid. They took Bailey in back for an IV. I hugged the Biggies more. 

When they brought her back, I spoke softly too her. I told her she'd been the best dog. That we loved her. I told her I loved her as they gave her a tranquilizer. She didn't want to lay down, but eventually she did. In those moments, the room simultaneously felt full and empty. The silence - and then the sniffles and tears and my voice telling her I loved her over and over again - my head was pounding from the noise. Her fur was so smooth, she felt so warm.

They gave her one injection. 

"I love you, Bailey. I love you so much."

I felt myself breathing with her, my hand on her. They gave her the second injection.

"You're our girl. You're our best girl and we love you. You're OK, Bailey."

The room was filled with so much love. My heart felt like it was breaking. The Biggies watched with us as the nurse listened for her heart and then took a step back. I exhaled. 

"We love you, Bailey."