How do you say goodbye to an old friend? The tears continue to fall as I think about the hole in my life where my dog used to be. There are no words to express my sadness. It's something that only someone who has lost their closest companion can know. Bailey came into my life when he was 10 weeks old. All paws, gangly and awkward. I knew he was supposed to be mine when I met him. The spot around his eye caught mine, and we both knew he belonged with me.
Over the last twelve years he has been by my side. When times were good, we ran in the yard together. He chased squirrels, caught a rabbit for Megan, and woke me every morning with a wet nose. His favorite place was next to me. When I worked, he would lie under my desk, keeping my feet warm when they were cold. He loved to hop in the back seat of the bug for a ride, and even shared my Starbucks latte when I wasn't looking. He was a great listener, allowing me to read stories I'd written out loud, whether they were good or bad.
When times were bad, he was my comfort, my happy place, my confidante and my best friend. Through my struggles and challenges, he was next to me, letting me know that as long as we were together, everything would be okay.
I'm sure that it was hard for him when we moved to South Dakota. He didn't much like the snow in March, but he allowed me to put boots on his feet so we could walk together to the park. And it took awhile for him to get used to the new rent house, but he did okay after a few weeks, as long as his bed was next to mine.
Over the last month or so, he started to have a tougher time of things. And I knew he was ready to move on. He knew that I was safe and happy. And that he didn't have to protect me anymore. His job was done. And so he waited for me to get home on Monday night from a couple of days out of town. And when I got home, he let me know he was ready, and that I would be okay now.
I lay with him for an hour or so, curled up behind him, and reassured him that he was right. I was okay now. He could go. And my heart was breaking and it didn't feel okay, but I knew he was so tired, and that our time together had been a priceless but temporary gift. I thanked him for the joy and the protection and the comfort, and he thanked me back with a tail wag. He looked in my eyes with the look only he had, and laid his head against me as if to say, it will be okay.
When the time came, I felt him let go of his life peacefully. With his head on my lap, like so many other days, I petted his head, his face, his nose, and ran my hand against his tummy.
I will miss you old friend. No one will ever take your place. And I know that somewhere in the universe you are running again, your legs strong, and a smile on your face. I will reach for you in the quiet times, and your spirit will join me - as it always has. There is no separating your soul from mine. You will be with me always.