As a forewarning, you might need some tissues for this one...
I was never present during the passing of anyone I've loved. At least not until May 8, 2017.
My mom and step dad adopted Henry almost five years ago, welcoming him into a home that was still new to us all, a home that would provide him with love and shelter and happier days. I wasn't there when he first arrived, but I know all the stories of how that first day unfolded. His constant howls and manic curiosity, sniffing every corner of this new and wonderful place, running around the whole house with such excitement that shit literally flew out of his ass as his paws galloped around from room to room, and finally cuddling up next to my folks on the couch cushions as they watched tv. From that day forward, Henry was at peace.
Always the dutiful guard on top of the couch in the big, bay window of the front room, he would be there watching and waiting as I (or anyone else) pulled up to visit. Henry was always the first one at the door to greet you, requiring at least fifteen minutes of howling and excited running around before he was able to settle down. There are countless times I've had to travel and leave my dog Riley at my moms, knowing she would be in good hands, sharing the queen-sized bed in the blue room with Henry every night I was gone. His snores were some of the funniest I've heard, and his big, velvet-like ears were all too tempting to play with. Those big, brown eyes of his would look up at you and say a million words. He was so playful and young-spirited, we thought we had so much more time with him until his health dropped so drastically and suddenly.
Henry had not been acting the same for nearly a week. Barely moving or wagging his tail, hardly excited, or any of his countless traits we all knew and loved. After numerous visits to the vet with test after test, the vets told my folks his spine was crushing the nerves in his neck. They gave him what he needed to manage the pain and explained that the surgical procedures to fix this would take many painful months to heal, with no guarantee of success. The following Saturday, my mom made one of the hardest decisions of her life. Henry came home on Sunday to spend one of his final nights at home, sleeping on his big, queen bed in the blue room, eating what little he could of the cheese and sausages my mom tried spoiling him with.
On Monday I drove out there with Nicole and Riley, picking up my cousin Ziggy on the way, arriving to a home that felt so very different than before. Henry was not in the window, nor was he there to greet us at the door. Each of us entered the house at our own pace, and looking up the stairs at where I needed to be sent a shattering wave of pain through my heart. He seemed so at peace at first, and when he saw us all entering the room, the blanket over his little body began to thump up and down. His tail was wagging, his eyes looking up at us, his mouth curling into a smile. We all spent the time we needed with him, saying our goodbyes, sharing funny stories, laughing, and crying. When the vets arrived, they mentioned how Riley knew something was wrong as she greeted them at the door. Until this day, I never noticed the rainbow sticker on window in that room left behind by the young boy who used to live there.
Henry crossed the rainbow bridge, going to sleep one last time in the comfort of his bed, in the company of those he loved and who loved him back.
You were the biggest goofball of a dog I've ever known, and while you may not have been with us nearly as long as we thought you would be, you had an amazing life in these few short years. You climbed on top of mountains and hiked through woods. You tip-toed through majestic lakes and streams and leaped from rock to rock. You sat on all our feet under the table and stole all the toys from the other dogs. You chewed on every stick in the garden and basked in the sun after a long, hard day of being a dog. You filled our hearts with so many comical and cute memories and endless love.
I took those last pieces of your fur out back and sent you off through fire. Aside from the cracking of the pine, everything was quiet on the edge of the woods in the yard. When the smoke rose higher a blue jay called out and flew overhead, landing somewhere in the trees nearby and sang its song. Your howls will echo through the mountains and woods along with all the other companions our family has shared a home with. We all miss you, Henry, and we all love you. Coming home will never be the same without you in the window out front. I will think of you and all the love you have given us and filled the walls of this house with, and any time I hear the call of a Blue Jay I will smile from the memories I have with you.
What is dead may never die. I'll see you again one day when I join you in the fog and fields eternal.
Until then, Latcho drom, little one.