The Big Mac Blog

Learning a cliché from the death of a dog

An English Bulldog, Ellie, doing her thing - standing on the kitchen table.
An English Bulldog, Ellie, doing her thing - standing on the kitchen table. Star-Telegram

Last week our spoiled rotten English Bulldog, Ellie, died of an apparent heart attack. Or maybe it was a stroke. Possibly an aneurysm. It doesn’t matter. She’s gone. I write this simply as yet another Public Service Announcement reminder to say it while you can.

You were there huddled among your family and the only reason I selected you was that brown spot on your back. It stood out among the rest of the white-coated dogs.

All I needed was my right hand to lift you up out of that brown box. Some 12 ½ years later I needed my arms, hands and chest to clutch you to lower you into the dark ground.

I pleaded with you to wake up but you were gone. You had not stopped but your body had.

In between the raising and lowering was a life where you saw damn near everything – including too many events I wish you had not.

As I bawled uncontrollably I could only say that I was sorry I had not saved you. That I had not been there when your body failed so I could rush you to a professional who would extend a life whose time had simply expired.

There was nothing I could have done, of course, but reason has no place in grief.

Sitting in the vets’ office 12 hours before this I had accepted that as I scratched under your chin you were only going to be around for maybe another year, and to be sure to walk you a bit more.

In that moment I told myself that when the end was apparent I would rub around her furry neck, tell you how much I loved you, and that I was grateful you were a good dog for all of us – despite the fact that you destroyed floors, toys, furniture, and woke me up at all hours.

And I would not tell you that it drove me nuts how you would wait until I sat down at my desk to tell me you needed to go outside.

In that vision of that moment I would love you once more, let you eat anything, and in return you would lick my face once or twice. That would be the end.

That sweet little moment did not happen. The end came just 12 hours later, even though the vet said you were OK. So when I told you all of these things and held you, you were warm but gone.

This is part of the agreement when you bring home a cat, dog, etc. – barring a tragedy, the pet is leaving first in a game where nobody gets out alive.

Everything is temporary, it is simply a matter of duration.

It was not anybody’s fault and it did not happen for a reason other than that it was time.

My only regret, only other than not walking you a few more times, was that I did not tell you while you were alive.

Such a trite and clichéd lesson that is all too painful to experience again – because we know it and yet we behave as if there will be another day. Because there is always another day until, finally or abruptly, time runs out.

And then we are left to regret not saying what we meant to say.