“I don’t know how to say this,” Dr. Amy, Queenie’s veterinarian for the past 15+ years, said during our yearly visit this morning, “But I don’t think she has a lot of time left.”
I was somewhat ready for this diagnosis after watching my once happy, active, crazy miniature dachshund start to decline during the past 12 months. Her little body, never the stereotypical fat dachshund, had slowly been losing muscle mass. And no matter how much she ate, she was still “emaciated,” according to her veterinarian.
The doc and her vet tech, who have been part of my partner’s and my family since Dr. Amy opened her practice while Queenie was still a puppy, were professional and compassionate.
They’ve done this before.
And it set me at ease just a little bit so I could ask the hard questions.
Will you come to the house when the time comes? I asked.
“For Queenie, yes,” came the reply.
I was especially touched when Amy asked her vet tech if she would accompany her.
I asked about cremation. I asked what would happen if Queenie died of natural causes.
I left the office knowing that this might be the last annual visit Queenie and I would pay to Faithful Companions Animal Clinic.
I went home and broke the news to Queenie’s other mom — my life partner who is responsible for bringing that tiny ball of sweetness into our lives at a time when our relationship was just getting started.
I’d never had a dog. I’d never wanted a dog.
But destiny stepped in when my partner of less than a year called me after an argument to tell me she found a dog I “needed to see.” Up to that point, neither of us had discussed having a pet. But apparently destiny had been having a conversation with Queenie and she had decided she needed a couple of humans just like us.
A few hours later the dog who chose us became part of our family.
Let me cut to the chase. Being a dog of pet parents who have no idea what the hell they are doing is no picnic — for the parents or for the dog.
But Queenie stole our hearts — and the hearts of our extended family — so much so that the love we gave her more than made up for the mistakes we made along the way.
Everyone moved heaven and earth to make sure she was taken care of while her other mom and I travelled the world.
But Queenie loved to travel too. The first weekend she was home, we sneaked her into a Key West bed and breakfast where everyone fawned over her as she stuck her tiny head out of the small backpack I was carrying. Our friend Lisa and I took turns carrying her along Duval Street.
She was a total people magnet — an accessory I carried inside my jacket — small head, big eyes and floppy ears sticking out ready to accept all the “Awwwws” that came her way.
She was cute — she still is — but she was stubborn. And that hasn’t changed either. The first day we took her to doggy training class, she walked up to the biggest dog she could find and bit it on the ass.
Throughout the years, she’s provided more laughs and tears than I could have imagined. There’s nothing quite like calling your mom in Miami while you’re in Europe to hear that “Queenie ate and made poopies three times today.”
I became an animal advocate because of her and I vow to continue that advocacy. It will be the legacy she leaves behind.
She’s been my friend, my baby, my companion during the lonely times, and my tool to make up after an argument with her other mom. You just can’t stay mad at one another when your 4-legged daughter is wagging her tail and showering you with the gift of sloppy kisses.
And now she’s given me the biggest and hardest gift of all … the gift of letting go.
How much time do we have left together? Nobody knows.
I’ve been told I’ll know when it’s time.
In the meantime, there’s only one thing I can do … be grateful for the opportunity to learn the lesson of living one day at a time, while thanking God for the gifts Queenie has given me.
Not 24 hours before our visit to the vet, a friend told me I needed to be more compassionate.
Right now there’s nothing but compassion in my heart.
To those of you who have never experienced the unconditional love of a 4-legged friend — who have found it easy to discard them like they were property — may you never have to experience the pain of facing the reality that one day you will have to say goodbye to unconditional love.
And it will be your responsibility to make the decision to end the life that gave it to you.