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Chauncey at rest. (January, 2004)
The date is exact. As is the hour. It's when we get down to the exact minutes and seconds between 12:30 and 12:45 that everything gets a little foggy. So allow me a bit of leeway and chalk it up to poetic license if you must. I was 36 when it happened and Chauncey was born on the 17th.
It was two weeks since we'd been told we were going to have put him down. Dr. Guhrt feared cancer, but like I said then (with Candy sobbing at my side in the examination room while Chauncey struggled just to be), "Until you can point to a spot on his body where there is a tumor, I'm not putting him down because we think he has cancer."
Long story short, it wasn't cancer. It was end-stage congestive heart failure, and here's the funny part: That was good news.
No ifs, ands or buts, the heart failure was going to kill him, but we could buy some time with the right drugs and the right diet. Chauncey started taking the exact same medicine that Candy's 93-year-old grandmother (you know Grandma) was taking for her heart problems and, with her being a small woman and him being a big dog, their dosages were practically identical as well.
Every day of those two weeks was better than the day before as he slowly got his strength back, ate more and walked further. We knew he wouldn't live forever, but we were blessed (once again) to have delayed the inevitable just a little longer.
His last 24 hours were perfect. A walk in the neighborhood down a street he'd never seen. Sleeping on the bed with his mother like he did when he was a puppy. Begging for pizza while I ate it in the living room that night. Doctors orders were absolutley no salt, so I had to turn him away. I've long since given up on eating that particular pizza. It just doesn't taste good anymore.
Then, less than ten minutes after Candy and I had gone to bed around 12:30 in the morning, there was a loud, shuddering clunk that came from the bathroom, where he had been sleeping. In his death reflex, his body had straightened out, causing him to strike the door and propel it into the wall. Later, Dr. Guhrt would guess that it was either a heart attack or a stroke.
Candy and I stayed up all nite crying on the bathroom floor with our boy. I had just finished Unscattering that afternoon and had planned to read it to Candy and the Old Man that weekend. Instead, I read it that night and into the morning.
Many weeks later, I wrote my only letter to him, the night before we cremated him. Among other things, it contained this line:
Our position remains the same: All that we've been, all that we are, all that we ever shall be, in exchange for another lifetime with you, our beautiful red dog running through the field.
It hurts less than it did then, and getting used to him not being here doesn't seem quite the sin it did before, but there's no getting around the fact that we still miss him dearly. With all our hearts.
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