My dog and I had just come home from another alarming vet appointment. Neville’s teeth were in horrible shape, and his sight had begun to fail him. After this vet visit, we switched him over to a sensitive tummy diet because of his reoccurring digestive issues.
But for a 12-year-old pup, he was in good shape, I thought. He was still swimming happily when I dropped him off at doggy daycare. He was still singing his little song that he loved to howl whenever he was excited about something, like dinner or a car ride.
I had no idea what little time I had left with him.
Honestly, even at his old age, I thought he had many more years to come. Sure, I talked about his passing with my loved ones, as we knew he couldn’t live forever. But I didn’t know his last days were right around the corner. None of us knew.
Neville (full name Neville Longbottom) was just $50 to adopt from a shelter, a dachshund breed mixed with who knows what else. He was abandoned, picked up by animal control, and he had a grumpy attitude with strangers to show for it. He had the worst case of separation anxiety I’ve ever seen, which cost me a pretty penny in daycare costs. And he wasn’t a big fan of kids, most men, or really any strangers that looked his way.
But to me, none of those things mattered. He was an angel, he gave the best doggy kisses, and for almost seven years, he was my best friend, my roommate, my everything. He really was my emotional support animal.
After this vet appointment, I decided to sit down and write him a love letter.
I’m not sure what inspired the idea, other than the fact that I deal with every high and low point in my life by writing. That night, I wrote a letter to Neville, knowing very well that nothing in the world could possibly prepare me for such a devastating loss. But still, I tried, and I wrote.
And now, a few weeks of grieving later, I want to share that letter online. I hope that it will resonate with and give comfort to anyone who has felt this pain.
Losing a pet is hard — harder than I ever imagined.
There is a piece of my heart missing now, one that I will never get back. The worst part is sometimes I get so wrapped up in my work or in packing (I’m also in the process of moving out of state) that I forget he’s not here. I think he’s just splashing in the pool at daycare or lounging on the sun-filled patio.
And then I remember, and it hits me all over again.
That’s the worst of it — remembering, and feeling like I’m back to Stage 1 of mourning.
Ultimately, I know the love I gave him and the indescribable joy he brought me surpasses the grief I feel right now. I also know that I’ll never stop missing him, and I’ll never stop wishing I could have just one more day of doggy-breath kisses. The longing I feel for him will never disappear.
And as I browse photos of him today, I’m reminded that when we make the commitment to change the life of an animal in need, we’re promising to give them everything they need for the rest of their lives, not the rest of ours. He was in pain, and the best thing for my little man was for his mom to say goodbye. So, I did, knowing that he will live on forever in my heart.
My Love Letter:
I wanted to write this letter to you while you’re still here, making me laugh, keeping me company, and just making my life that much better.
This is really hard for me to write and you’re just right here on the couch sleeping next to me.
I’m not sure how I’ll be able to cope once you’re no longer here. But I have to get my feelings out on paper so I remember all the beautiful things about you when you’re gone.
The year is 2020, and it’s been the worst year that many of us can remember.
You turned 12 this year (according to vet estimates) and pretty much the whole year, your health was not great.
You started shedding a lot in early February, but medicated shampoo helped you. I’ve got to be honest; it wasn’t fun to vacuum twice a day, every single day. But you got better. And I know you enjoyed the bath time, because who are we kidding, you’re a fish more than a dog sometimes.
This year was the year you stopped playing with toys and started running into walls. You’re going blind and it hurts to watch. Just the other day, you literally ran into a wall while we walked into my apartment. And you barked at the wall as if you were yelling at it for coming out of nowhere. Darn that wall Neville.
But when it came to swimming, you just kept going like nothing could stop you. Everyone at your daycare always loved watching you swim. It was like you were digging a tunnel, and we just didn’t know when you were ever going to finish digging.
And I always said, when he stops swimming, that’s when I know that he’s ready to leave this Earth. But so far, you just keep on swimming.
As I sit here and watch you sleep on the couch, I’m watching your heart. I can actually see it beat out of your chest. A grade 5/6 heart murmur has complicated your life and mine. It’s the reason I never put you under anesthesia to get your teeth cleaned. Oh, that stinky breath. How I love it. Only a mother could love a breath like yours, right? Well, trust me. Your breath never stopped me from loving your kisses.
Just today as I picked you up from daycare, you did your usual car ride routine.
You rolled down the window on your own. (Since the day we adopted you, you knew how to do that. I’ll never know who taught you.) You stuck your entire face out the window because you love to keep your face out in the sun. It’s your way of relaxing but also keeping an eye out for any potential danger AKA other dogs in other cars. You bark and let me know if you spot them.
After you’ve had enough sun, you come inside and stand up on the center console of my car to get a better look at the world. And then you do my favorite thing, you put your face directly on mine. You literally push your cheek onto my cheek and wait until I smooch you. I love when you do this.
I always tell you sweet things as I kiss you while we wait at the red lights. I tell you that you’re my best friend, which is true. I tell you that you’re always mine, and I’m always yours. Forever and ever. And I tell you that you’re my light. You’re my everything.
Well, now I’m crying again. And guess what? You’ve gotten up to lick my kisses. Another one of my favorite things that you do, it’s as if you have to investigate why I’m crying.
God, I love you kid. I know I’ve sacrificed a lot to keep you in my life for these 7 years, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I adopted you, I made a vow to love you until the day you die. And that’s the way it will be.
Every day that I have with you, I cherish. You bring warmth into my soul that I cannot describe to anyone who has never loved a pet. But to those that have, they understand just what I mean.
And I know the day will come when you’re in doggy heaven swimming in an infinity pool with all the other furry Olympic swimmers. And my heart will be missing a piece from that day forward.
I’d like to have you with me forever, but I know that’s not possible. But I will love you forever. Thank you for finding me in this life. I hope we meet again.