Today’s post is a sad one. If you need happy reading, or don’t have a box of tissues handy, I suggest you read elsewhere.
On July 28, I said goodbye to Melba forever.
The best, sweetest little dog had been carrying around a tumor for over a year, and at the end of July, it decided it was going to take her over.
Since shortly after I found her, she had toughed out a variety of ailments. She spent a lot of time with the wonderful people at the Blue Cross Veterinary clinic, and they were her fan club. She was no stranger to the Cone of Shame.
But then she would come back.
She helped me move into my apartment.
She modeled in photoshoots.
Melba was not the dog you took running. She was a lap dog. When we were together, everything was good. When everything was good, she slept.
She slept on so many projects in progress. Clean laundry was also good. And books, and notebooks, and my laptop…
When we first found her, we though someone must be frantically looking for her, so we took her to the humane society, who turned her into the pound (at the time, they were only taking surrenders). As we walked into the humane society lobby, I tucked her under my arm like a football, and she settled right into the crook of my arm. I felt like the worst person in the history of the universe when we handed her over. For the next week, I looked frantically for her on the pound’s website.
After I got her home, she chose me as her person. I like to think she remembered me holding her. If Querido watched her while I was at work, lining a comfy armchair with a blanket for her to sleep in, carrying her out and in, she would be the picture of despondence until I came home. My sister sat for her once: Melba was excited to hear her at the door until she realized it wasn’t me. Then she walked away and lay down pitifully in front of the slider. One of my best friends and her usual dogsitter, the one who would snuggle with her on the couch for hours while they watched TV: Melba gave her a mess on one of my shoes for a welcome.
That much love is a powerful thing. Humans love one another, but they don’t forget so easily, carrying around old hurts and unspoken expectations. If a friend or a family member had a really bad day, I would know it would take a lot more than me just showing up to make them feel better. But when Melba heard me walk in the door, she totally forgot that she’d been abandoned with Querido in her blanket-lined chair. She was ecstatic, crying with joy and tail whipping, and everything was right with the world. I don’t know what I did to earn so much love, but I tried very hard to be worthy it.
She wanted to be with me, and I with her, so she came with me to as many places it is possible to bring a particular little dog who doesn’t like other dogs. Everywhere we went, I carried her around like a football. Up until the very end, when nothing was comfortable, that’s how she liked to be carried.
She came with us on car rides and road trips.
She was no stranger to Flagstaff when we lived in Phoenix, and not only did she make it to Kansas, she made it through a Kansas winter.
In July, when she started to decline, the hardest thing was admitting that this tiny little dog–who walked across a six-lane road in morning rush hour, survived two bouts of cancer, and attempted to fight every large dog in my apartment building–that she could be dying.
Her last two days, I stayed home from work. We sat on the couch together the entire time. The first day, I pretended I was just getting her back on her feet. The second day, I pretended it wasn’t the last. She didn’t eat. Finally, I pulled her too-light body onto my chest, and we took a nice long nap.
Then I said goodbye.
Getting her clay paw print back was horrible. Getting the box back was worse. I want to have her with me and well, with more years in which I can love her, and make up for whatever put her on the street in Phoenix in 2012.
Oh Melba. Wherever you went, I want to end up there too.