My 17-year-old dog is going to die today.
She has been a sad and shy but strong dog her whole life—most likely abused or mistreated when she was a puppy. She showed up to our house pregnant one day, and we took her in, loved her, and cared for her, and we were happy she was with us.
But, as we do with people, the day came when we took her for granted and stopped interacting with her as much. Our appreciation wasn’t as obvious. Fewer became the walks, the play time, and the hugging, and she got old right before our eyes, until one day, we realized something was wrong.
Her sight became weak and her steps slow. We reacted slowly, blaming it on age. Now we wanted to walk with her, but she quickly got tired; we wanted to play with her, but she didn’t have the energy.
And we kept on trying.
We took her for granted so much at one point that we sent her to live with the girls’ grandparents so she could have room to run and play with their dogs, but I could tell every time we visited them, she would wonder why when we left she wouldn’t get to come along. We finally snapped and retrieved her back home.
Our home was good for her, and she was our girls’ dog since they were little ones. They loved her so much, and her appreciation was obvious—she soaked in their love.
But now, as her body and her mind weakened, all of the salmon dinners and the hugs in the world would never be enough to make up for the missed walks and our complacency once she was back, and we simply took her for granted, failing to realize how much she had weaved herself into our hearts and our family.
Now, she is frail, disoriented, and weak.
We lie with her at night, trying to sooth her pain and pour out any love we may not have given her. We hold her close, quietly apologizing for not having made this the norm and struggling to convince ourselves that we tried but our lives required so much work. We left her standing in line when it would have been so easy to take just a few minutes to love her back with a gesture of affection or care.
I am feeling guilty, although I know we were good to her.
Maybe I always feel I could have done more, but the bottom line is that we did a lot and loved her, but her love is so unconditional and so true that it makes us feel that human love can’t compare, which intensifies the guilt and blame.
I love you, Pepper.
Thank you for your relentless love and the patience you showed while waiting for us to finally remember you were an intricate part of each of us.
We will miss you so very much and never forget you, although we did not deserve you.