A few weeks ago, my brother Jeff and our childhood buddy, Scott flew down for an extended weekend. Though I regularly see my brother and occasionally visit Scott, it was our first extended get-together since we were teenagers. We took in a Baltimore Orioles spring training game, went fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, and ate a lot of good food.
While at dinner the first night, we were talking about stuff we did as kids, when out of the blue, Jeff asked Scott if he remembered his childhood bicycle. Scott did. I did too. I remembered because Scott’s bike was very cool. It was bright green and had “French Handlebars.” We reminisced for a bit before Scott thought to ask why Jeff was interested in his bike.
“Because I found it in the woods.”
I didn’t want a dog.
Robin wanted a dog. The kids wanted a dog.
“I’ll be the one who winds up walking and feeding it,” I protested.
That was twelve years ago. For the most part, I was right. The kids are on their own now. Robin does baths, but I do most of the walking, feeding, and trips to the groomer.
Next week, I’ll take Chloe for our last walk, and I’m choking up as I write this.
Chloe became ours after another family purchased her from the breeder, then returned her. From the beginning, she was different. Her first week with us, she freed herself from her kennel while we were gone. We came home to find her lounging on the sofa, waiting for company. No accidents, no chewed furniture. When the same thing happened two days later, we got rid of the kennel and left Chloe free to roam the house. She never made us regret that decision.
She loves car and airplane trips, our back yard in Kansas City, and Bradenton’s warm weather and birds. She visits our neighbors, Carol and Joe, and devours their cat food when they’re not looking. She breakdances and rolls over for treats, intuits when we’re going to the vet or groomer, and will do anything for a puppy cone at Culver’s. She’ll come running when we say treat and run away when we say bath. She watches TV and barks at animals on the screen, even the cartoon kind.
When Chloe was still young, she loved for us to drop her off at the end of our dead-end street so she could run home. All we had to say was, “You want to run?” and she’d go nuts. Robin used to have a basket on the front of her bike that Chloe rode in. She was a true queen.
We found out last year that Chloe has Cushing’s Disease. Now she sleeps most of the time, has trouble breathing, and struggles to control her bladder. Her tummy is distended and she can’t get enough water. Occasionally, though, the old Chloe will reappear, like last week when she went to her toy pile, pulled out a favorite, and brought it to me. She’s slipping away from us, though, so this morning the decision was made to… well, you know.
The next eight days will be our Chloe Farewell Tour. We have a quick trip planned to Savannah, Georgia. She’ll go along for one more joyous car ride. Robin has replaced dog food with hamburger. We’ll have puppy cones at Culvers, belly-rubs on the couch, walks as long and far as she wants, and lots of time to say good-bye.
Then we’ll make that last trip to the vet.
I guess I wanted a dog after all, because I’m sure going to miss this one.
Postscript, April 19, 2019: Chloe wasn't able to complete the entire tour. It was the morning of the third day, in Savannah, when her condition worsened and we had to seek out a local vet. Robin was holding Chloe when the end came, and though I'm writing this a full year later, the memory brings tears. We will adopt another dog someday. If it was Robin's decision to make alone, we would have one now, but frequent travel and our work has led us to put off the inevitable.
We are having a thunderstorm as I write this, and all these months later, the first thing that comes to mind when I see a flash of lightning and hear the crack of thunder is that I need to check on Chloe.
Give your puppy a hug for us.