We live a quiet life, the dog and I. We take walks in the neighborhood and visit with special friends, we walk in parks, and we walk on trails. We go to Petco to greet people. Locally, we’ve been to Walgreens and SunTrust Bank. She’s welcome in those places. We’ve traveled together and walked on new trails or sidewalks and through hotel lobbies.
Easter weekend, we went to Destin, Florida, where we met her “big brother,” his wife, and their two children. Heidi Deering went shopping with us, ate meals out with us, and even sneaked out on the beach early mornings and late evenings. It’s a pet friendly town, and we walked lots of new trails and sidewalks here and met lots of dogs and dog owners.
But the funny thing—Heidi Deering has never been to a gathering of hundreds of people, except when she was three months old and I took her with me to Dickens of a Christmas in Franklin. I’ll preface this little story with the fact that Heidi Deering loves people! Especially children. She loves to greet people and be around all the activity.
So one night we went to Baytowne Wharf. It’s a little village of quaint shops, boutiques, eateries, galleries, and nightlife, with family games, like a big checkerboard and checkers, a shooting gallery (pretend), and ziplining over the bay. We went at eight in the evening. The little village streets with bulb lights strung across them, were packed with people—families and children and seniors. It was a festival atmosphere with a great vibe, lots of noise, lots of excitement.
We walked through the entrance gates, and Heidi Deering saw all those people. She came to an abrupt stop. Her ears perked. Shock and awe. She hopped to the right. She hopped to the left. She looked at all the people, movement, and fun. And noise and laughter, and children running about. She started to pant. Her tail wagged so hard it was a blur. And then . . . she started happy-bounce-walking, and she looked up at me. And I could read her face.
“Oh my gosh! Look at all this fun! Are you looking? Are you looking? This is fabulous!”
What a sweet face and sweet moment.
She had a ball. And she draws a crowd. People come to her, pet her, hug her, tell her she’s beautiful.
We’ve got to get out more. To where hundreds of people are.
Birthdays come hard now. I wasn’t expecting this at all. But today (the day before) and tomorrow (the birthday) have expanded meanings and bring an extreme of feelings. So I give in and cry.
One year ago, September 3, at this hour of the morning, I was calling the vet. I knew this was different. I knew it was bad. I took her in. Dr. Dave said, “We can do it now. Or we can do it at close of business. But you can’t let her go through the night.” I’d known this was coming, but no, no, I wasn’t ready. Are we ever? I held my Chaeli, wrapped in a blanket, looked in her eyes, stroked her face. “I’ll bring her back at five.” I took her home and spent the day readying myself, readying her, and fussing at my deceased husband for not coming back to take her naturally. He could have helped me out on this. He held me and we cried together over Molly, our golden retriever, when we had to do it to her. I did not want to go through that again. Alone, this time. I did not want to put this dog down.
But that’s what I did. I went back to the clinic at five and was ushered into the Death Room. I held her and talked to her and told her to go find her daddy (the alpha), as the injection was given. It was quick, so quick, as the dog who would never look at me in the eyes during her entire almost seventeen years, looked at me the whole time. I held her for a long time after life was gone. Then at my request the doctor wrapped her securely in blankets, and I took her home. She spent the night on her favorite vent in my living room.
The next morning, September 4, my birthday, I drove her to the crematory and handed her over.
Now she’s in a box on a shelf over my bed. It feels like everything in my life is in a box. Dead, gone.
Twenty-two days later little Heidi Deering was born. Chaeli and I had planned this together. I was on a waiting list. I picked out my little buff girl with the round head and had eight weeks to heal after the loss of the old girl before I brought a new baby home. Then life got so full, and now I wonder if I fully healed. Because September 3 rolls around again, and I hurt.
I hurt badly. And not simply over her loss, but she was the bottom layer of layers of loss. I won’t go there and name them all, but she was the last thing to go that Charlie and I shared together. And that’s a hard thing.
And Birthday, I don’t know what to do about you. I really don’t. I just really don’t. Birthdays should remind us of good things. There should be cake, there should be laughter, there should be balloons, and maybe sapphires . . . and telephone calls.
Thank you, Neil.