Time is a funny thing. It gives and it takes, it creates space, and sometimes it presses on you so hard it crushes.
One month ago today, my best friend and sidekick, the yin to my yang, my little girl, my sweet puppy, left me behind and headed on to the next adventure. Bri the labradoodle, otherwise known as Thing 1 on this blog, was the light of my life and the truest companion I have ever had. We were connected on what felt like a molecular level – I could sense her facial expression and what she wanted even when my back was turned. No matter the day, no matter the hour, she was at the door waiting for me, tail wagging, and a smile on her face.
I met her when she was probably three or four weeks old, and we had belonged to each other since she was probably nine or ten weeks. It was an instant bond that was never broken. She put herself between me and danger (as perceived by her) on more than one occasion, and I gladly sacrificed a fingernail and broke a fingertip to save her life in one all too recent incident.
Bri was a total punk rocker chick and a tomboy diva. She had her own opinions about things, and made her wishes known with no uncertainty. She chased squirrels and was fond of cigarette butts and her toy cow, and loved nothing more than to roll in the yard after a bath. She was obstinate and pushy, and the complete delight of everyone who met her.
We went through so much together. She was at my side as I grew from a law school graduate into a baby lawyer into a somewhat experienced attorney into a business owner and elected official. We lived in two apartments and one fantastic house with a yard that will always be Bri’s yard. We claimed the dog park as our own, walked the trails by the river, and paraded through the historic downtown of our city. Bri made friends everywhere she went and, in fact, I met some of my closest friends at the dog park.
I never really thought of us as separate beings. It was always Bri and me, even with the two cats, Felix and the Poet, and even with Sasquatch, the monster doodle who was a puppy for approximately a week and then grew taller than both of us. Bri has always been as much a part of me as a limb or an organ. It never occurred to me that our time could be cut short.
In the end, it was very sudden. A slight limp that I thought was the recurrence of an old injury (from too much playing, of course) turned out to be a tumor around her spinal column. Within a few days, she went from a limp to losing the use of her back legs. The only option, surgery, was no real option at all. The only assured outcome was that it would cause her pain and zap the remainder of her spunk and zest. The likelihood of success was extremely slim, with the tumor likely to return within weeks, not even long enough for her to recover from the surgery. I couldn’t do that to her.
I solve problems and create plans for a living. That I could not come up with a way to save the little girl I love as much as anything in the world is something I still struggle with. If sheer force of will could have healed her or created a workable solution, this would already be a footnote. I never wished or prayed so hard in my life. But that’s not how it works and, ultimately, the only thing I could do for her was let her go. I chose to do it at a time when she was on medication that temporarily improved her leg function, so she had a day to sniff around the yard, chase a squirrel, and take a walk down the block (and eat a final cigarette butt – ha!). We had tried that medication before, so I knew it was not a fix, only a brief salve. But it gave her back to me for a few days, and I wanted her to be able to leave on her own terms, with a little bit of the light still in her eyes.
She passed away at home in the afternoon on April 14, with her head in my hand and her paw on my foot. She was surrounded by love her whole life and, I hope, was one of the happiest dogs you could ever meet. It certainly seemed that way.
I took her home to my parents’ land, where she is buried under a tree on a hill, with her dear friend, Buttercup, another beloved family member who left us too soon. A wind chime sings softly over them, and the view is lovely. Because I could not permanently curl up on the rock over her grave, I came home to my other puppy. We are grieving together.
Although I often feel like my heart has been ripped out of my chest and is lying on the ground in a bloody puddle at my feet, I am, more than anything, so grateful that my path met that of a miniature labradoodle named Brioche. She brought me joy, and she taught me how to be a caretaker. The loss is huge, but the love was worth it.
Bri and Butter at their first meeting
With her “sister”
Bri was a once-in-a-lifetime friend. She will always make me smile.