It’s been a long time since I’ve written. The old year flew by and the new one ripped through my life with a speed that has left me breathless. And if everything is going ok, it’s alright not to write. I can handle the thoughts in my head as they jockey for prime real estate at the front of my consciousness.
But things are not alright.
Yesterday, at 3:30 p.m. our dog, Shanti, was hit by a speeding car and killed instantly. This was the puppy who chewed everything, the one who drove us crazy, the one who made herself at home in our hearts. This was the one we tried to give away, foolishly ignoring the hold she had on our hearts. And this is the one who spent all of two hours at the animal shelter before we caved in on ourselves, speeding in our little red truck to make it to take her back in time.
This was the puppy who forced my husband out of a gray, pernicious depression–a formless void with no name and endless symptoms. As he fed her each morning, as she watched him make the coffee from her crate, before anyone else was awake, she drew him out of his mind and into the world. She was the one who had chosen him as her own. She, whose tail wagged her body when she saw his truck pull in the driveway, reminded him of everything good. This was the one who looked him in the eyes with amber affection, holding his gaze without blinking or barking or licking. She was his anti-depressant, specially formulated to be his friend.
And we all knew it.
He had slowly started to feel better. Oh there were days, of course. Days where he wanted to hop a plane to anywhere-but-here. But those days were breaking up, becoming fewer. He was doing well. We heard him laugh, the kids and I, as we played in the yard with Shanti. And maybe somehow, in some inscrutable way, it was time for her to move on.
Because yesterday at 3:30 p.m. she did.
The impact was so great that we know she felt nothing. Husband called me from work, his voice incredulous. Someone had witnessed the accident and had let him know: Shanti was gone. I put down the phone, sobbing, and told the kids to stay in the house, that Shanti was gone and I needed to find her. They knew she was dead.
I rounded the hill and made my way down to the mailbox at the bottom of the driveway. I was shaking from the cold, and from the metallic fear that she was indeed dead, that it was not some unfortunate mistake. Or worse, that she was half-dead and then what would I do? At first I didn’t see her. I looked left and right. Please God, please God, please…Cars zoomed past me at lightening speed, pulling me toward them.
And then I did see her lying by the side of the road like she was taking a nap. She looked small and round. I strangled her name out of my throat but she remained motionless. I moved closer, my legs rebelling against the manic protests of my mind. I looked into those amber eyes. They were open but they were not hers. She was gone.
Husband carried Shanti in a wheelbarrow to a place behind one of the trees she used to like. He dug a hole, gently picked her up, whispered a broken thank-you, and placed her in her grave. He cried as he told her she had accomplished her mission–that God must be pleased with her, that she had rescued him exactly according to plan. He told her he was sorry he had been unable to keep that car from hitting her, that he had always tried to protect her, that he knew she was ok now, that he would miss her terribly. He covered her with dirt, her broken collar beside her. Then he placed two stones on her grave and walked into the woods behind our house to be alone.
That’s where I met him. His eyes were panicky and bloodshot. He was wordless but I knew what he meant to say. We stood outside and we mourned together, for another change, another goodbye, another friend we can never reach out and touch. We cried for our children and we cried for ourselves. We cried for our dog, for her lifelessness before the age of one. How funny, how ridiculously absurd that this dog had managed to do this to our hearts. How did it happen? We had no answer but it didn’t matter now. It had happened and we were changed.
And now she’s gone. She’s not in her crate this afternoon. She’s in the earth with two stones on top of her. We heard her scratching to get in the door this morning but we were mistaken.
And that’s why I’m writing. I’m writing because I need to say goodbye and it’s the only way I know how.
Thank you, Shanti, for helping us to survive America. Thank you for whining to go potty, forcing us to take you outside when we wanted to do nothing but sleep for 100 years. Thank you for needing a brush, dog food, toys, and a leash when we were worried about money. Thank you for nipping our kids and pestering them so that they are not afraid of dogs anymore but will reach out and pet all the different kinds at the dog park. Thank you for needing to run so that we met new people and were able to share our story. Thank you for thrilling us with your ability to sit, shake, lie down, and roll over. Thank you for a wonderful first Christmas back in the States. Thank you for making us think of someone besides ourselves.
Good girl, Shanti. Mission accomplished. Until we meet again.