Friday, February 16, 2018


We had to put Cleo to sleep
almost two years ago now.
I was grateful for a couple of things
in retrospect:
That her decline was extremely sudden and unexpected,
no time for suffering.
I didn’t have to wake up each morning for months wondering,
is this the day?
Is she hurting too much?
No longer eating or enjoying life as a dog?
The other thing I was grateful for
was that we had no other choice.
It was so obvious that it was her time.
A brain tumor, who knows how long she had had it,
without anyone knowing.
It broke her one day.
A seizure or two,
and she could no longer stand or walk or wag her tail.
She could just move her head a little bit
and chatter her teeth when she saw us,
which is what she always did when she was happy.
I knew that this wouldn’t do.

Cleo was the first dog of our adulthood,
the first dog who was all ours.
I had fallen in love with racing greyhounds,
gentle, elegant.
To me, they are nature’s perfect form.
We contacted a group and went out to their kennel,
met a couple of apathetic hounds.
Then they brought out Cleo,
a reddish-brown brindle.
Tiger-striped dog
who immediately locked her big brown eyes with mine
and claimed me as her own.

There was a gap of a few hours.
They were going to do some blood tests.
I was pretty sure we were going to have to say goodbye.
Matt was still holding out hope for something.
He loves me, sure,
but Cleo was his baby.
At first he said he didn’t want the dogs on the couch,
but he spent hours on end
cuddling and sleeping with her there,
murmuring baby talk at her.

I remember walking Anubis,
just Anubis this time,
wondering how the world could possibly keep spinning
without a Cleo in it.
Without her sharp barks,
imperiously demanding walks and treats and food
and my spot on the couch.
She always knew when I was hurting
and would lay her sweet head on my chest.
One of my favorite things about her
was how when I’d pick her up from the kennel
after some time apart,
I would drive her home
and feel her kiss my right cheek
from the backseat.

I was also so grateful
that Matt and I could both be there for her
when it was her time.
I held her all the while.
I made her fur wet with my tears.
I didn’t watch the injection
but just watched her chest rise and fall,
knowing that it would soon be for the last time.

Before that
when we were given a few last minutes alone with her,
I asked her to send us
another dog who was just like her
and to never be far away from me.

We got a pizza delivered that night.
I mean, what else can you do?
Matt wondered if we should try some
new special pizza.
I said, no.  Let’s get something tried and true
Because if the pizza sucked that night,
that would be the end of me.

Matt didn’t leave the couch for about three days.

Meanwhile, I was walking around the neighborhood
with just Anubis,
so the friendly mailman asked me,
“Where’s the other one?”
And I immediately burst into tears.
I felt bad for him
because he was probably thinking,
Oh my God, I just wanted to make some small talk.
All my neighbors asked me about her.
Some of them still do.

I never really liked the story of the Rainbow Bridge
because I didn’t like the idea of Cleo being in some faraway land
where I won’t be able to find her until I die.
I decided instead that Cleo was some kind of ancient goddess
whom we were allowed to care for in dog form
for a time.
Then she had to return to some other divine plane,
but she lives on forever
and is in me and everywhere around me,
and if I want to find her
I just have to look.

The day we went to the kennel,
they introduced us to a female who was shy.
Wouldn’t make eye contact with me.
I was pretty sure this was not our dog,
But the woman kept trying to sell me on her.
Then a man brought a small black dog near us,
and she locked her big brown eyes with mine
and wagged her tail wildly like she was an old friend.
Then Matt approached her,
and she joyfully jumped on him,
and that was pretty much that.
Sure, we test drove some of the other dogs
just to make sure,
but we all knew.
They called her Lightning,
but we named her Giza

Giza thought that absolutely everything in our home
was the best thing she had ever seen.
She jumped right up on the couch
pretty much right from the beginning
and laid her head on Matt’s arm.

I have a million nicknames for my dogs.
One of Cleo’s was “Ladybug,”
which I called her because
she was a lady
who bugged me.
Exactly a year to the day
that I lost her,
I went for a walk in the woods
just to spend a little time with her memory.
A ladybug landed on my shirt.
I said, “Hi, Cleo,”
and after a moment, it flew off.

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