Dear Governor Ducey,
We had to put our poor dog Cleo to sleep yesterday. She was getting so old. She had been so old, for a long time. Two years ago, while friends were visiting, she couldn’t get up from under the deck. Each of us, even the friends who were really cat people, went to pet her. We sat with her. Brought her dog biscuits. We sat on the deck so she could feel like she was hanging out with us. We took her food and water and thought that she would pass in the night. The day after the friends left, she popped up and walked in the house. Perhaps she just likes drama.
A year and almost a half ago, on MLK Jr. weekend, she was so weak she couldn’t stand. We had to carry her in and out of the house. Sometimes, we had to roll her onto a sheet and carry her in that way. We thought she was indeed done then. We would call the vet after the long weekend. But then on Tuesday, she popped up and walked right in the house.
She was a beautiful, goofy malamute/shepherd mix. She scratched at the door so our front and back. Our doors are ruined. She begged for food almost always. And we almost always gave it to her. In the morning she cleaned out the breakfast bowls and at lunch I gave her leftover chicken and for dinner, she had some steak. Or potatoes. Or lentils. She liked almost everything except lettuce but she’d eat lettuce if you put butter on it. As would I. It’s my fault, I know, that she begged for food but it seemed in its own way, responsible. Think how much water I saved by not pre-rinsing plates for the dishwasher.
She had hip dysplasia from when we first got her. She had surgery on both hips before she was one. After that, she would not go into the vet’s office. She would lie down and wheel her legs in the sky. The vet in Salt Lake, would come out to her as she lay stubborn on the sidewalk. She jumped out of a car window once, trying to see her pal dog in our friends’ car as we found a spot to camp. She loved to swim more than anything and I regret that I didn’t take her swimming one last time. I could have snuck her into Lake Elaine a few weeks ago, if I had known then that this last time was really going to be the last.
Boy dogs liked her but girl dogs thought she was weird. Cleo tried to lick the inside of their ears. She was, like me, overly familiar too soon. She preferred cats. She was such an excellent cat dog that our new cats, Zane and Hazel, walked on top of her. They shared milk from the cereal bowls with her. They stole food from her dog bowl. She was good with her old cats too. Bagiera and Phaedra, Jelly and Box. Box used to jump onto her neck and swing around like a fat necklace. Cleo has never really been the same since Box died, 3 years ago. She lived in 3 states with that cat, Utah, Michigan and Arizona. Box licked her inside the ears. Maybe that’s where Cleo got the weird ear-licking thing. She liked to play ball, because sometimes she could be a normal dog and not a cat (which not to say Box did not sometimes like to catch a ball). She liked to run and we went on a walk or a run every day of her life until about a year ago when her hips really couldn’t take it any more. She shed profusely—a whole other dog’s worth of fur, in the spring. One of my housesitters collected her fur after he brushed her in a garbage bag. We thought about spinning it into proper yarn. A dog blanket.
She liked to lie on the driveway and sometimes, you’d have to forcibly drag her out from behind the car in which you were trying to back down the driveway. We called her "donkey" sometimes. She was very stubborn. But really, she liked food. She stopped eating dog food last week but she’d still eat dog biscuits. When Erik’s mom, who calls her her first grandkid, came over, she’d run to her and nudge her hand. For a pet, sure, but also for a biscuit. If Erik’s mom sat down, Cleo would yip, wondering where is my next pet? Where is my next biscuit?
She loved the kids almost as much as she loved dog biscuits. When they had friends over to play tag, Cleo ran after the kids, nipping at their shirts, trying to win, trying to keep my kids from losing. She slept with them and she kept her eye on them and even though she’d never bite anyone, she could bark like a mean dog. The kids were extra safe with her around. As we all were. She was a big dog made even bigger by her love of dog biscuits. And she liked us. She hit her tail hard on the floor whenever we walked in the door.
Yesterday was maybe the most awful day of my life. Erik and I took turns crying and sitting with her, petting her behind the ears. The vet came at 11:00 on the dot. The slow ticking down. How anyone supports the death penalty is beyond me. It’s one thing when the end is just a few days or weeks away. Another to steal a whole life. I still don’t know if this was the right thing to do, even though she couldn’t stand up. Even though she couldn’t walk. She was still alert. Her ears pointed straight toward the ceiling when I made breakfast. I gave her an egg. Erik gave her an egg. She yipped for the milk leftover in the cereal. We gave her a biscuit.
The vet gave her a sedative. We gave her one more biscuit. She fell peacefully asleep. But then, when he gave her the barbiturate, she woke up and looked me right in the eye. Her eyes said, help me. I said I was sorry, so sorry, but that she couldn’t walk. I could have stayed with her another hundred years, giving her biscuit after biscuit but I couldn’t pick her up any more and a dog has to be able to walk. Today is less sad than yesterday but not by much. Max left his bowl of yogurt on the floor. I’m waiting for Cleo to come in the room to lick the bowl so I don’t have to rinse it out.
And, although this has nothing to do with you, Governor Ducey, it is so sad and it has been such a sad year, thanks to you, that I think I’ll put all sad things in your column. You don’t seem to bear the burden of much sadness. Maybe you can take a little of this weight.