I knew it was bad but I didn’t want to believe it was that bad.
Yet deep down I suspected it was. I shoved the thought away with every uncharacteristic wobble, every meal skipped, every pound lost. In the end, it was shocking but not unexpected: our beloved dog Chewy had a tumor on his liver, and there was nothing the vet could do.
They brought him out to us on a gurney of sorts, ol’ Chewy Bear riding high one last time, laid out on a red carpet, like the king he knew he was. I could almost kid myself for a minute, thinking he was going to be ok, that this was all an over-reaction…but I knew better. My good boy was sick, and he wouldn’t be coming home this time.
This wasn’t a visit; this was goodbye.
Poor guy could lift his head, but not much else. He recognized his people, that’s for sure, but even then he wasn’t himself. There was no “smile”, that characteristic mouth-open, tongue dropping excitement he always greeted us with. It was just a look at each of us as we said his name in turn, petted him, and loved on him one last time. The vets were very sweet and as comforting as they could be in a situation like this. It was ungodly hot outside, but they made us all as comfortable as they could, setting us up under the shade of some trees.
And by the picnic table…why is our bad news always around a picnic table?
They brought out different treats for us to give him. As usual, he liked some things and promptly dropped others. It didn’t hit me until later: we were feeding him his last meal.
My kids each spent time with him, telling him how good a dog he was, thanking him for coming to live with us right when we needed him most. Even my son, who is NOT a fan of emotion, surprised us all by staying close, loving on Chew-Chew, and telling him how good a dog he had been, how thankful he was to have him.
Good God there were tears.
I didn’t expect this mutt to grab my heart like he did. Shoot, most of my days were spent in a battle with him to be the Alpha, but God knows, I miss him. I was petting him when he laid his head down for the last time, and I’ll be darned if I haven’t relived that moment in dreams multiple times this week. That big ol’ head, the one he’d use like a wedge, walking up to where I was working or laying, nudging my arm until I finally gave in and petted him…but wouldn’t any more.
I keep telling myself how sick he was, and how he’s better off, and while that’s all true, it doesn’t make it suck any less. Chewy came into our family right when we needed him most. We had moved to Oklahoma, starting our lives over, and on Christmas Eve, he came in and became part of our crew overnight. It was like he was tailor-made for us, like it was meant to be. He endured Halloween costumes in stride (I think he actually LIKED the outfits), dinner table rules reluctantly (lots of war with me), strangers in our home constantly (he loved meal night at community group). He figured out which beds he was allowed on, and which he was not (kids’ ok, mom and dad, heck no). He even endured my son’s propensity to pinch and get overly excited, growling in warning but never nipping, just giving me that side-eye “He better recognize” look.
And he LOVED chasing squirrels. I still look in the yard and think I see him back in the shade of the trees in the corner, patiently waiting for that dang squirrel to show itself again.
Ahhhh Chewy…I got you for my kids, to be their companion in a new town and life, and lo and behold, I fell in love with you, too.
People tell us we need to get another one, but that ain’t happening right now. It feels…wrong for us. There may be other ones eventually, but there will never be another Chewy. His life and death seem to bookend a season for us, if that’s not too melodramatic. Saying goodbye to him feels like the end of an era, and until we see what’s next, that’s how it must be.
A good friend of mine told me he doesn’t think anything we love is ever really gone. I’ve been thinking on that a lot. If there was ever a dog who deserves to run and chase squirrels from here to eternity, Chew-Chew Bear is the one.
Thanks for everything, Chewy. You really were the King.