When I walk in the door, Abbott is always there to greet me with his enormous shnaz (our word for his nose) and his beautiful, watery eyes that gaze at me with absolute adoration. There’s something heady about being in the crosshairs of dog-love. I pat his head and ask, “How’s my favorite?” I have done this every day. The idea is, Abbott’s my favorite dog, but the joke is, he’s my favorite of all vertebrates.
There is comfort in a dog’s love. It’s constant and unconditional. I have cried into Abbott’s fur and kissed his shnaz. When I was in the valley of fear over my brain tumor, the only thing I could bring myself to do some days was to walk Abbott. I confessed my fears to him. I remember thinking he would outlive me.
Now I know that won’t be true.
As soon as the vet opens today, I will make the call. The heartbreaking one no one wants to make. I’ve been blithe about my pets in the past, and I’ve been broken over them too. But Abbott will be the worst. He’s everybody’s favorite. The darling of my 5000 Words Class and the darling of our family. You can’t help but fall in love with the big oaf who puts himself in your way as you attempt to walk across the room. He will walk in front of you, stop, and you’ve no choice but to pet his backside and tell him what a good boy he is. He’ll stand in the middle of the kitchen so we have to sidestep him. I think he even enjoys when my thigh bangs into him because he’s in the way. Any and all touch. He’ll take it.
I sit on the couch. He sits at my feet. I get up to make coffee; he comes to the kitchen and stands there. We watch a movie downstairs; he stands at the top and gives me the pathetic stare down (he’s not allowed downstairs and the rockstar actually obeys the rule). If you ask him whether or not he wants a walk, he goes berzerk. Barking and jumping and spinning in circles. If you say talk or chalk or balk, same thing. Abbott even learned how to spell W-A-L-K. So if you spell it out to keep him from dancing and barking until you could get ready, he isn’t fooled. If you say his name, his ears fly up and he turns to you with military speed and crispness. People constantly tell me how handsome he is. I feel like his toady when we’re out and about. People go that nuts over him.
About two months ago, I noticed he’d cry when I tried to put his collar on. I figured he’d pulled so hard on the leash (he does that), he made himself sore. I stopped using the collar and he seemed fine. Then, I noticed a lump in his neck. After Thanksgiving, I planned to take him to the vet. But by the Monday after Thanksgiving, he was throwing up and having trouble breathing.
The vet was a straight shooter, which I appreciated. Lymphoma. Abbott was full of tumors. She offered two choices: chemo or steroids. I’ve thought about my own date with cancer, and I’ve made it clear I don’t want the last months of my life to be spent hairless, joyless, languishing on a couch. I don’t want that for Abbott either, and because we’d talked about it, I knew Bob agreed. Steroids would give Abbott a few more weeks with us. And they’ve since passed. We’ve all tried to get used to the idea of Abbott leaving and making heaven a better place. I cry as I type this. He’s so amazing. I know. I know. So’s your dog. And cat. And maybe even your guinea pig.
I remember when Midnight was put to sleep. She closed her eyes and put her head down on her paw. I can still see it. The vet made a mold of her paw. Katae has it because Midnight was Katae’s baby. Abbott is Tory’s baby. But he’s also Luke’s favorite. Bob’s favorite. My—you know. Gabe says animals don’t have feelings, but I think he’s just being a tough guy. All you have to do is spend a few minutes with Abbott to know he has a heart as big as that big, beautiful snaz of his. How will I come in the door again? To an empty house? Sorry. I’d hoped to end on a more positive note. Isn’t he a rockstar? Isn’t that the most soulful look you’ve ever seen? Even with that ridiculous little tongue sticking out. We love you, Abbott.