I Didn't Just Fall In Love

His last day on earth he ate steak tacos. His eyes wide open, focused on every piece that went towards his face. His first attempt at eating his last meal ended with his legs giving out from under him. He fell but continued to eat. When some pieces fell underneath his body, he wiggled his now skinny and uncoordinated body a few inches so that he could find his beloved steak and tortilla remnants. He was dying. No matter how many more months we were willing to deal with sleepless nights or the dread of having to beg one of our friends or family members to sit a sick dog, nothing was going to change that.

We found out he was sick days after Jeremy proposed to me. We took a short hike up to a cliff that over looked the Mississippi River at Perrot State Park. It was hot. He was old and stiff. We took his leash and brought some extra water. We made our way up, taking multiple breaks in order to accommodate him. We got to the top and took in the view of the water making its way like veins into the earth. Jeremy got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife and his dad. The answer was yes. Jeremy picked him up and we descended the rest of the way with him in Jeremy's arms safe and sound. A few days after that, we realized something wasn't right. He was slow. He slept all day. He stopped eating. I was panicked. Even when he had a slight cut I was a mess. He was my baby and I was mom (the fixer of all things).

No one lives forever. However death comes as a shock no matter what even if its inevitable. I always imaged that he would go due to old age. Cancer never really came to mind. It was aggressive, it was in his stomach and he only had a few months to live.

My dad came home with him one day when the cold began to touch the ground. He had massive paws, was nothing but fluff yet was perfect as could be. He slept in the house and would cover the vents when he was cold. When he cried at night my siblings and I would meet him in the kitchen for late night snuggle sessions. Over time he was moved to the outside which meant out of sight out of mind. This is the period that haunts me the most. He was always fed and out of the elements but I will ways have this feeling of regret for not spending more time with him.

My parents divorced and I basically made my mother keep him. He was moved into the basement which for me was better than having him live with some stranger. I would sometimes sneak him upstairs to watch t.v with me. He hit the ground like bricks when he laid and snored so loud, I would have to turn up the volume.

One thing I would like to mention was that he was obsessed with balls. Which can be quite embarrassing when that means he literally had no self control. Every ball that existed that wasn't his was supposed to be his. This made him unbearable at times and others it made him unique like in some past life he was unable to play so at every waking moment he was a playing fiend.

I brought him to Bradley University in the Fall of 2010. He lived the college life style. Late nights, lots of food, too much beer and a lot of sleep. These were the best days of our lives together. They were filled with laughter, tears, regret and growth.

Jeremy and I bought a house and with him it became a home. His presence filled each room. He walked around like he owned the place and to the best of our knowledge he did. He slept where we slept and he sat where we did. He hated being apart from us and loved being a part of our everyday lives.

He was a joy to come home to after a long day and a warm body to snuggle with when Jeremy was traveling for work.

I can say that like any great love story, the love we had for him was so full, there was no space that could contain it. As time went on, the love I had for him at first was minuscule compared to the love I had for him at the end of his days.

He went at home. On his bed, surrounded by people who loved him. We made him comfortable and took off his embarrassing diaper. This was all for him. He was going to die with some dignity. I held his paw as his chest rose and closed my eyes as it fell for the last time. He left as fast as he came into my life.

13 years of life left him and all I could do was continue to still breathe. The first week was the hardest. The spaces he once took up are bare and the noises that once filled this house are hollow. There is no longer someone there to hear my grievances with life or to eat my last sausage on my plate. We have gotten around to throwing away his bed and donating some of his things to those in greater need. His bowls still sit in my garage as constant reminders of him. His ashes were placed on our fire place. The box sits next to his paw print and lock of hair. I have not had the courage to take out his collar. The reality is, I don't know when that will happen. This way I can still keep his death at arms length and when the moment comes where I hold it again I will cry. Not because I am not healing, but because no matter how many years pass Chico will always be my first. I didn't just fall in love, Chico made me love so sincerely and purely that him leaving has halted my life.

A sign sits in our garden upfront with his name on it and below it a tennis ball. He may no longer be a force to be reckon with on earth, but in heaven he is prancing with a damn ball in his mouth.

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