A friend of mine lost one of her best friends today.
Sushi was her name.
I’m told that Sushi’s favorite song was “Angel” by Jack Johnson, that she was the quintessential trooper even in her final days, and even without having met her I know that she was loving, loyal, and beautiful inside and out.
Unfortunately, Sushi was epileptic, had a heart murmur, and suffered from growths that occasionally bled out. It was this latter malady that reared its ugly head yesterday, forcing an emergency visit to see Sushi’s cardiac specialist to find out if she could make it through surgery.
The answer, perhaps inevitably, was no.
A Difficult But Loving Choice
The ensuing choice for my friend was obvious, but no less difficult to make. She was strong as she told me about her choice, but sobs snuck through, hinting at the sadness no words could ameliorate.
Today, Sushi was relieved of her suffering and laid to rest. She was 13 years old. She is survived by her brother Chopsticks (or Sticks, for short).
Tonight, she is resting peacefully in a warm bed, surely with home-baked treats nearby. When she wakes up, Sushi will move around without pain or murmur. She’ll be happy. Doggie Heaven is a wonderful place.
And how could it not be? Made up, as it is, of such wonderful creatures.
I’ve experienced my friend’s anguish and powerlessness vicariously over the past 24 hours. I’ve been able to empathize because I’ve sat in veterinary waiting rooms, awaiting word on tests and experimental surgeries, not knowing if I’d ever get to walk, wrestle, or reprimand my little buddy again.
I’ve been fortunate thus far that my 7-and-a-half pound fighter – pound for pound the most resilient dog you can imagine – has yet to exhaust his cat-like nine lives. He’ll turn 9 this August, which is amazing considering his elevator misadventures, appetite for rat poison, multiple knee surgeries, and nearly exploding gall bladder.
But there he was, just moments ago, bounding towards our apartment door with zeal and vigor at the mere mention of the word “outside.”
I thought of my friend, and I thought of Sushi, and I thought of how much each would of them would cherish one more walk, one more couch cuddle session, one more pat behind the ears, or one more lick upon the face.
Sometimes it can be easy to take a nighttime walk for granted, to rush through it, especially when there are other things to be done and when it’s cold out. Not tonight.
There isn’t always tomorrow. Which is why today must never be taken for granted.
As I walked Rebel, I thought about how someday, hopefully many, many years from now, I’ll be in that position again: waiting on a vet, waiting on word. Perhaps readying myself to make the most difficult of difficult decisions. It was a somber thought.
It’s what my friend faced today. Somehow, she did so with grace, and with strength, and with love. She found a way to realize that she was actually in a positive position of being able to release Sushi from her painful present and send her on into her peaceful future. By taking it, she gave Sushi back her life.
By saying her final goodbye, my friend actually made her greatest pronouncement of love.
The Greatness of Dogs
And dogs deserve nothing less from us. They deserve as much love as it is in our capacity to give. For they give so much and ask for so little. It is their essence.
I’ve loved dogs for as long as I can remember. We had a family dog growing up, and my best friends had dogs in college. I finally got my own dog not long after I graduated college, and little Rebel and I have navigated the choppy waters of the real world together ever since.
A lot has changed in that time. People have come and gone. Residences and jobs have changed. Habbits and hobbies have started, been abandoned, and started again. But the one constant, through all these post-college years, has been Rebel. (Okay, and my family too, but they aren’t there wagging their tails every day when I get home.)
And yet even with all of the appreciation I have for what Rebel has meant in my life, I’ve been able to grow even more fond of dogs over the last couple of months. And for that I have my friend Ashley to thank, for she introduced me to the great fun of walking rescue dogs on Saturday morning for DFW Rescue Me.
I went on a lark one Saturday morning, not knowing what to expect but certainly not figuring it would become a weekly ritual. And yet it’s become just that. It’s become 90 of my most anticipated minutes each week. And all because dogs, simply put, are awesome. They are the greatest creatures on earth.
I’m reminded of this fact every Saturday when I visit these dogs who just want to be love and be loved, but who have been needlessly abandoned. Thank goodness for organizations like DFW Rescue Me, who give these wonderful beings another chance at finding the unconditional love they give and and so desperately seek.
If you love dogs, find an organization like DFW Rescue Me where you live. Find out how you can volunteer, even if it’s just an hour or two once a week. It will make a difference for the organization, for the dogs, and most of all … for you.
I’m sure Duke and Sugar and Gavin and Treavor and Felix and all of the other dogs I get to walk on Saturdays enjoy the running, the hugs, the scratching behind the ears, and the treats. What they might not realize is just how much I enjoy it too.
Dear sweet Sushi passed on today, but she did not make her way into Doggie Heaven in vain.
Having to say goodbye to her filled my friend with sadness, but the happy memories will soon win out, and they will live on forever.
Hearing of Sushi’s passing reminded me, specifically, to appreciate every moment I have with my own little pup, as well as how much I enjoy Saturday mornings with the rescue dogs.
And more generally, Sushi’s passing reminded me that we owe it to our dogs to show them love as often as we remember too.
Of course, even if we succeed in doing this, we’ll still be operating at a love deficit of a factor roughly equivalent to 100 to 1. Because while we humans, busy as we are with the hustle and bustle of our lives, sometimes need to be reminded not to take our dogs for granted, they never need the reminder. They are always there. They love unconditionally.
Incredibly, just by being what they were born to be, dogs teach us to be better versions of ourselves. Because every single one of us can learn to love a little better, a little deeper, a little more fully. Dogs do it already, as naturally as they breathe.
It’s why they are the greatest creatures on earth.
Rest in peace Sushi.