Unconditionally.

At this time last year, my dad and I were getting ready to take Cleo out to go to the bathroom. It had become a 2-man job at this point and she was well past the point of being able to support herself.  Cleo spent from 10am-10pm outside that last full day she was alive.  That was her choice! It was like she knew she wouldn't be getting the opportunity to do it again. Nan stayed home from her Labor Day festivities to keep her company out back.  When I got off work at 9:30, my dad and I brought her inside again & we both knew what we had to do (not to sound too Kevin Arnold there). Since the summer started, Cleo's health took a quick nose-dive.  She started shaking a little. Then she would have these spells where she would stop in her tracks, fall over, arch her back, and go into some kind of trance.  My Dad and I took her to the vet and found out she had an enlarged heart which could have been causing these problems. I got her medication and we gave it to her diligently.  I was hoping the medicine would help her and that it had nothing to do with the fact that she was 14-years-old.

I went on vacation in August for one week. I called home often to see if she was improving. Generally, she wasn't. She started messing in the house and she wouldn't leave the kitchen.  When I came home, Cleo wasn't herself. I didn't think much of it at first. Cleo always gave us "the treatment" (as Nan calls it) after we were away for a bit. She was famous for turning her nose up to my Pop Pop when he returned from his annual hunting trip.  This time, it was different. Normally, Cleo slept in my room every single night. She would get visibly excited when she realized we were heading for bed and would get so hyper when I'd close the door and it was just us two.  She'd grab a bone or her "baby" and throw it around--just so happy to have me all to herself. She'd lay next to the computer desk while I fiddle-faddled around. Once I got into bed, she would get up, stretch her neck to see if I was laying down and if I was, Cleo would go into her bed too.  She was like my little shadow.

By August, Cleo didn't do that anymore. She stayed on the kitchen floor and it was hard for me to leave her there to go to sleep during those last weeks.  She was always by my side when I was sick or upset & I hated when I had to leave her for any amount of time during her last days.  I would stay in the kitchen for as long as possible laying on the floor with her. I'd mostly lay with her and sing to her a little (Nana had a song she used to sing to her after she was neutered and Cleo seemed to love it. We sang this song a lot to her over the years.) but mostly, I told her over and over and over again how much I loved her. I did love her so, so much.

My dog was gone long before we put her down.  My dog was always happy to see me and was uncontrollably giddy.  My dog was an extension of myself and was like my shadow, she followed me everywhere. My dog was the most affectionate dog I (still) have ever met. If she had the physical capacity, she would have hugged me constantly.  I used to say that Cleo was me manifested in a dog because of how affectionate she was. The dog in the kitchen now had little to no response to me walking in the room which was heart-breaking. She growled when I tried to help her up to make it outside to the bathroom. She no longer laid her pretty black head in my lap while I pet her and talked to her. My dog was gone.

Nan & Mommy said their tearful goodbyes and my dad put Cleo in the truck.  I rode in the back with her hoping she knew what we were doing was going to end her misery.  As I sat in the back of the truck talking to Cleo and telling her how she was going to feel better, she put her head in my lap; something I hadn't felt her do in weeks. It was as if she knew her suffering was coming to and end and was relieved in some way. For whatever reason she did it doesn't matter. It made me feel so happy to feel my dog come back for that small window of time before I had to let her go for good.

The vet was so compassionate.  He actually came out to the truck to put Cleo down because she was always so nervous at the vet & we didn't want her to spend her last moments in distress. It was above and beyond for him to honor our last wish for her. The procedure went the best as something like that could go.  My dad and I were relieved when it was over and felt like Dr. Schrieber did Cleo justice in the way he put her down.  As I held her and felt her take her last breaths, I made sure she left this world feeling loved. I held her close and spoke right into her ear so I knew she could hear it.  I told her she was a good girl and that we loved her so, so much.  The last shot was administered and after not even a minute passing, our Cleo was gone.

My dad did a beautiful job of digging up a burial place in the back-yard for her.  It was a hot and sunny day, but he did the job he knew she deserved. I know that was a difficult thing for him to do because the burial makes it so permanent. But I'm so glad he did.  It's nice to peek out of the back window and "see her".

Anyone who's ever had a dog knows what it's like to experience this kind of unconditional love.  Dogs love you no matter what you look like that day, no matter how much money you make (or don't make), no matter how big of an asshole you are, or how poorly you may treat them.  These animals have the ability to love completely and totally unconditionally.  It is this that makes them the perfect companion to humans because finding this level of love is so rare among our own kind.  My Aunt Ellen said not long ago, "God created mothers and dogs to give unconditional love." I think she's absolutely right.

 

So, sorry if this post was too long, or made you sad, or was boring for you. I felt like I had to write it and share my story about Cleo to move on with my day.  If you got this far, thank you so much for reading.

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