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A Lifetime Rescue

Published by Nathaniel Christian IV

Copyright 2017 Nathaniel Christian IV

Smashwords Edition

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Thank you for downloading Boston. This free eBook remains the copyrighted property of the author. If you enjoyed this ebook, please encourage your friends to download their own copy from their favorite authorized retailer. Thank you for your support.

Table of Contents

Prologue: A Thing or Two about Dogs

Read Boston

Number One

Here We Go Again

Aging Gracefully

Crossing the Rainbow Bridge

Author’s Notes


Get to know author

Other books by this author

Connect with Nathaniel Christian IV

Prologue: A thing or two about dogs

When dogs die, they go to a special place high above the clouds more divine than your greatest pastor could envision. There is no other animal more loyal, compassionate or as forgiving as dogs. If only they could talk, one could only imagine what they would speak. Dogs, unlike the human species, love you unconditionally. A dog doesn’t care about how much money you make, the kind of car you drive, what your goals in life are or whether you’re a vegan or not. A dog’s sole objective in this world is to please his owner, showering you with more love than your furry companion loves himself. Your dog would die for you.

With one leg, a dog would crawl to the top of Mount Everest if he heard you call his name. He would dart across a busy roadway filled with speeding automobiles if he spotted you on the other side. Dogs do not reconsider the consequences of loving or protecting their owners; they live for us. Add that onto your bucket list -- before you die -- I recommend owning at least one dog in your lifetime. Dogs are full of love and owning one has taught me more about love than any human being I have ever met. They are not judgmental, critical, or insensitive, tainted by the charge of being human. You will always be their highest priority.

That is a love like no other. It cannot be found in any man or woman anywhere on this earth, my friend. Your lover cannot love you the way a dog will. Gay, straight, fortunate, unfortunate, house or homeless, your dog will be there. They love you with every piece that their tiny little hearts can afford to offer. In return, all they ask is for you to love them back, feed them and give them a warm place to sleep which begs the question: Why do some people feel the need to mistreat such a loving animal?

Boston is dedicated to the memory of my thirteen-year-old Boston terrier, Roxy, who departed this world in May 2017. Since her ill-timed death, a void remains inside of my heart that I know I will never overcome. There will forever be a spiritual connection between my little friend and me. She taught me how to love. I dedicate this book to the memory of a wonderful dog who loved me despite my imperfections. To the best dog in the whole wide world…I love you Roxy!

Game day

“Let’s go for a ride!”

Bath time!


Dad passed away on a Friday morning on September 23, 2011, almost three years to the day after my brother passed. I received the troubling news that morning around 5:43a.m., just before sunrise. A phone call that time of morning is never a good thing. His death was expected considering his terminal state, but it is still never easy. Following dad’s seizure the previous year, his health started to rapidly decline. Several debilitating months later, poor circulation in dad’s leg eventually led to a blood disease. According to mom, dad went to sleep the night before and never opened his eyes.

As soon as I got the call, I vaulted out of the bed and rushed over to my mother’s house. When life happens, all you really want is to be surrounded by your loved ones. Nobody should have to grieve alone, not even the wickedest dog trolling God’s green earth. Here we go again, I thought to myself. Punching the engine of my Acura, whisking through the dead of the night, I felt the same seasickness I felt when my brother died in August of 2008. I was at work when that call came in. Tripping the lights to a couple of speeding cameras while enroute, I barely made it in time to say goodbye.

Dad and I had just talked the day before he passed. Actually, I did the talking; he listened. That Thursday before he left me, I told him at his bedside that I loved him and that despite our differences in the past I forgave him and hoped that he had forgiven me. Lastly, before I would leave his bedside, I honored his request to take care of Roxy. He lay there; breathing heavy but listening (I believe) with his eyes closed, encasing himself within his soul. Mom always said that a person has to be “released” before they transition. I believed he needed to hear that because the next day, he died.

Roxy was eight-years-old at the time. Dad adopted her after my brother passed away when my sister-in-law could no longer care for her. Roxy took to the change of address with ease. In fact, she had already been living with dad the past couple months anyway. Before my brother passed, Roxy would visit us periodically, staying a night or two. Whenever she and Dad got together, it was trouble because he would play with her all day and night! I was in undergrad studies during that time and the two of them would make so much noise that I would have to go to the library or drive to a nearby park to finish my work. During that time, I just saw Roxy as an irritating ball of energy that distracted me from my coursework.

Yet, Roxy and Dad were inseparable and everywhere Dad went, Roxy would follow him from behind. Years before Dad became ill, he used to put her in the front seat of his car and ride around town with her. She was too small to reach the armrest to stick her head outside of the car window, so Dad would roll her window down and she would smile. If not joyriding around town, they would go in the backyard and play. Then my brother would show up a couple days later to take Roxy back home and Dad would throw a fit after she was gone. “I miss that damn dog,” he would say to my brother over the phone. “When are you bringing her back?”

After Dad’s stroke and subsequent seizure in 2010, his health declined rapidly which meant fewer walks and playtime for Roxy. He was sick in his bed most of those days, so I came by to care for him and Roxy while Mom was at work. I played night nurse; I’d bring him things to eat, get his medication or offer him some company. He was often lonely since because usually he had no visitors. Confined to his bed, alone and without a friend in the world -- I felt bad for him. Roxy was his only friend. She kept him company, asleep in her bed on the floor next to the hospital bed donated by Hospice care. When I would walk through the door, Roxy would greet me and then we would go outside so she could relieve herself or get in a short walk. Dad was grateful because he could not walk her with his partially amputated foot and Mom was away at work, so Roxy did not get much time outside unless I came by. Similar to her first rodeo, she had moved to the back of the line as was expected in a state of such crisis.

A few weeks before Dad passed, Mom and I had a private discussion about Roxy, among other things. Mom said that as much as she loved Roxy, she could not afford to care for her and did not have the space. Initially, I said the same thing that I was too busy in my personal and professional life to care for a dog at that time.

Mom understood and said that she had talked to Aunt Linda in South Carolina and that Linda would pay the train fare for Roxy to be sent down there. She had also spoken to an old friend of hers from high school who was interested in taking Roxy. Then an uncle in North Carolina wanted a part in the Roxy giveaway sweepstakes; I began to wonder. Sending Roxy so far away meant that I would never have a chance to see her, neither would my Mom nor brother’s kids. Somehow, I tried to put myself in Roxy’s proverbial shoes and think, Where would I want to go? That’s when I concluded that I wouldn’t want to be sent hundreds of miles away from the people I’ve grown to love.

I will admit I was not very enthusiastic about caring for a dog. I had just moved out on my own two or three years earlier and started a new job. I was just getting my life back on track after my brother’s death and in somewhat of a relationship around that time; although things were not going as well as I had wanted, a dog was not on my radar. Lastly, with my recently purchased furniture, in addition to plush blue carpet to add, cleaning up poop and wiping away urine was not part of my plans. So there I was, mulling over a tough decision.

After thinking it over for a week, I went back to Mom and told her that I would take care of Roxy once Dad was gone. He was excited when I told him the news.

“If she’s going with you, I know she’ll be alright…” he said. “I feel better now.”

I got to Mom’s house a little after six a.m. the morning dad died and asked her what had happened. She said she was up early that morning and had gone to the bathroom when she stopped in the room to check on Dad and noticed that he had stopped breathing. The television was still on and Dad just lay there, his eyes slightly canted open as if he were watching whatever was on the screen. Mom found Roxy in her bed staring at her deceased master with a dejected look. I later learned that she did not bark or make any rambunctious noises during his passing. I always thought that perhaps she was aware of what was happening and knew that it was Dad’s time to go be with his son.

By the time I got through the door, Roxy had already made her way downstairs and underneath the dining room table. I scooped down to her level, picked her up and placed her into my lap, dividing a list of phone numbers between Mom and me of friends and family we needed to call. Everyone gave their condolences and some were shocked by the news. Two hours later, hospice took Dad’s body away. It would be the last time that Roxy would ever enter that room of the house. We were sad, obviously, but knew this day was coming, as my father’s will to live diminished; he had given up, refusing to eat and take his medication.

It was a sad time, but one that we were prepared for, considering the state of my dad’s health. That evening, and for several evenings, I spent the night over at the house helping to plan Dad’s funeral and be closer with Mom. Occasionally, I would return home to get clothes, take a shower, or check the mail, and I would bring my new dog along to get acclimated to her new home. Back at my parent’s house, Roxy and I slept downstairs in the basement on top of the foldout couch. She stayed pinned at my side the entire time, following me from room to room, the same way she did with Dad when he was able to get around.

A week later, we had Dad’s funeral.

During his ceremony, our last words together rang inside of my head, and I thought about Roxy. If nothing else in this world, he loved his old collection of vinyl records and Roxy. I swore to take care of them both. It was a dark time in my life; I could not comprehend why I was back in the same suit at the same funeral home so soon. Three years. I would hear people say crazy things like when God closes one door he usually opens another. Hell, I felt as if my doors were all closed; every door in my house but one. At least one was still open--I still had my mother and the promise that I had made my dad before he died.

Weeks after his funeral, I set sail on a cruise I had booked a year in advance. I thought about not going, staying home in the states to grieve alongside Mom. She suggested that I go anyway and offered to watch Roxy for the week while I visited the Caribbean. I went with friends, but instead of basking in their debauchery and unpleasant way of vacationing, I spent the majority of the time in my cabin thinking about Dad. At night, I posted myself up against the window sill, listening to some of his favorite songs on my iPod, surveilling crashing waves as they rushed alongside the boat. If heaven was anything like I had thought of it, he would have wanted it that way. Up until then, I had not enjoyed my trip and dreaded returning back home to take care of a dog that I didn’t know anything about. Although I had made a promise to care for Roxy, I began to wonder if I could ever live up to such a responsibility with the level of commitment she required.

After the cruise, things became official with Roxy.

She moved in and broke down my proud bachelor pad into her own little world. Unable to afford a dog sitter, I housed her in a kennel I had built in the back of the house where she remained while I was at work. After first, she used to make such a mess that I had to place down newspaper for her across the floor. Rather than to use the newspaper, she would chew it into a thousand pieces, urinate and poop all over my floor. Not only that, she would leave her tracks throughout the room, across the floor and walls.

I scolded her when she did that and then made her watch as I cleaned up after her with a scowl embroidered on my face. The next day it was same thing, trailing feces, urine and shards of newspaper everywhere. The third and fourth day, yes, she did it again, except on the fourth day she managed to escape my poorly designed homemade kennel. I got in from work that day and as soon as I walked in, I could smell the inferno she had left behind. I hollered for her, kicking over a dining room chair as she hid somewhere far away from me. I was furious. At the sound of her name, slowly (like a guilty child), she came tiptoeing down the steps. As soon as I laid my eyes on her, I went all in, barking at her with some choice words. Roxy laid down at my feet. She knew. I was so mad at her that day, I thought about sending her down to Aunt Linda in South Carolina.

I had never owned a dog up until then and never wanted one. Perhaps this whole “Roxy” thing was a mistake, I thought. Between blowing through bottles of floor cleaner and odor remover to kill the stench of her bowels floating throughout the house, I came to one conclusion. After three weeks, I wanted Roxy gone! Not only was she filthy, but she often fought with me during our walks, biting at her leash. Rather than to walk at my side like an obedient, wonderful dog, she zoomed across my path, causing me to stumble over her. Then, as I would give her leash a tug when I felt that she sniffed at a spot of grass long enough, she would plant her paws into the dirt and tussle against her chain. The task was daunting.

“She doesn’t listen. She’s stubborn!” I complained over the phone to Mom. “I don’t know what else to do, and she’s barely eating her food.”

“It could be stress, honey, give her a chance,” Mom suggested.


“That might be why she’s acting out? I don’t know. Losing your father was a big blow to her. We understood it, but Roxy didn’t. She needs time to adjust to the loss and get used to living with you. It’ll take some time, but I think she’ll come around eventually.”

Roxy was depressed. After losing Dad, except for a bite or two, Roxy had totally stop eating. Plus, I was hardly home, unwilling to sacrifice my free time to spend with her, still unaware of my selfish ways. In her eight years, this was the third home she had lived in. She never had a chance to be first at anything. When my brother and Dad were sick, most of Roxy’s needs were put on hold. She never got the attention and care she deserved; she was always last. Now, she was being forced to live in a strange place with no assurance that Dad was coming back for her. I had made the mistake of believing she was just a dumb little dog that didn’t have any feelings. What a fool I was back then.

After finishing my phone call with Mom, I spent the evening splashed on my bedroom floor staring into a picture book of old photographs of the family and reminiscing about the good days. We used to have so much fun, and I remember thinking to myself how unfair I felt life had been to Mom and me in recent years.

Deep down, I was a hurting man. The universe had dealt a cruel blow to our family’s infrastructure. My faith waned and for a long time, I questioned if God even existed. To whom was I praying? What good (if any) had he done for me lately? I always had questions but now more so than ever. What lesson was I missing? I hoped that an answer would come soon that would allow me to prosper.

Number one

Roxy and I took a long walk the next day and had a lengthy discussion, the two of us, I talked and she listened. I apologized to her about the past couple of weeks. I had lost my head since Dad was gone, feeling unmotivated by her, promising to do a better job. I would make more time for her if that’s what it took. She would have a better life than before, where she had always been picked last. I vowed to put her first and, although things wouldn’t be perfect, I would do my best to give her a quality life filled with the love and affection she deserved. Moreover, when it was her time to go, I would let her go in peace and not keep her tied up in anymore sickness or suffering than she had to endure. She had been through enough already. Lastly, I asked her to give me a chance to come about these adjustments and it would be worth her while. I knew I could not replace the relationship she had with Dad and I did not want to, but I wanted the last few years of her life to be her best. After our walk that day, together we sat on the floor of the dining room and Roxy climbed into my lap and kissed me. Feeling somewhat moved by the mutual understanding we seemed to have, I kissed my dog on the top of her head and stroked the strip of white fur between her eyes as she purred with delight. We understood each other. After that, dog ownership was fun and easy.

During my next cluster of days off from work, I vowed to change a bit of old habits in exchange for giving Roxy more quality time in an effort to improve our relationship. Trust had to be earned, and the only way to gain her cooperation and for her to change was if, first, I began to make some changes. I broke things off with my up and down girlfriend, went out less and learned to work my schedule around Roxy’s needs.

To improve her quality of life and restore her energy, a change in her diet would be necessary. When Roxy first moved in, she was a bulging, fat, farting, lazy little dog that stunk up the house and would lie around all day. She was a sickly little dog back then that vomited and pooped everywhere. A trip to the vet turned out to be useless as no one seemed able to solve Roxy’s nutritional crisis. Albeit, she was issued a ton of different medications for some stomach virus, we kept down the same road of soiling the house and her kennel area.

I started researching on my own, registering on dog forums, delving deeper into her madness. I bought just about every brand of food (wet and dry) that you could think of, but it ran through her like fast food from at the drive thru. I went took my drama to the forums and fussed some more. Help! What the hell does an 8-year-old Boston terrier eat? Luckily, people were happy to chime in on my post about the situation. Some of the comments, of course, were not the greatest. Hell, we live in an age of social media where anybody can gain access to these things and offer their opinion. It does not make it valid, though. One comment, in particular, stood out to me:

“You’re feeding the dog junk,” an anonymous person wrote. “What you’re giving her is equivalent to [insert favorite fast food chain] that’s why she’s so sick. Just because it’s on TV, doesn’t mean that it’s good for your dog, ***hole.”

The person was right…I was an ***hole.

I went back to the drawing board researching food for Roxy, bouncing from website to website reading as many reviews about labels as my eyeballs could stand. In the meantime, I fed her strips of boiled chicken as a consolation prize while I got my act together. She would eat anything, I noticed. Motivated by food, I used treats to tame her misbehavior and rewarded her to gain compliance. Between meals, she would hunt across the kitchen floor for scraps. Then, if she managed to find a crumb or two, she would patrol around the area, licking at the scent emanating from the tile floor. Then I would sneak in behind her and clap my hands, startling her and her legs would go scrambling in circles. I went through this with her anywhere between fifteen to twenty times a day.

Within our first two months together, every paycheck, I was buying new food, hoping to find a good brand that would fit this hungry monster of a dog. Then I came across Nutro, suggested by a forum member. I had never of it, certainly didn’t recall seeing an ad for it and at $2.50 a can, I prayed this would be the one. Upon getting Roxy on a strict senior level diet with the Nutro food, she underwent major changes for the better. Within just a couple weeks, the extra pounds began to fall off and her coat of black mixed with white fur felt thicker and fuller. Thankfully, she loved her new food so much she could hardly wait for her next bowl. After finishing, she started pushing the bowl around in her room in search of more, scraping it against the floor or turning it on its side. It got so bad, I would have to take the bowl away from her after meals; otherwise she would not leave the area! Not to mention, she was more energetic and had less accidents throughout the house. Most importantly, I was glad to see that she was starting to eat again.

“She’s eating again!” I exclaimed to Mom over the phone.

“Really?” she asked. “See, I told you! She just needed a little time. Aww!”

Roxy became chipper, more sociable, and funny; she was starting to come around to her old self and she was quite the little comedian, the things she started to do. Instead of moping out of her kennel upon my return home, she would shoot out of it like a propelled rocket, racing upstairs (tongue hanging out of her mouth) before racing back downstairs and slamming on brakes in front of her bowl for food. She was happy again and her cheerfulness made my world.

I started giving her baths in the hallway bathroom of the house. In fact, the cover art for Boston is derived from that iconic photograph. After drying her off with a towel, she would look up at me and smile, before spinning in a tornado and taking off for a game of chase. Bouncing up and down the stairs with her tongue sagging from the side of her sprightly mug, she was reborn again. Seeing that she had adapted to her new environment hinted to me that she had given life another shot, putting her trust in me as her third owner. This made me happy, seeing her as joyous as she once was years ago when she was a puppy when life was much simpler. She trusted again. On my honor, I could not let her lose that spirit again.

For the first time ever, I took her to the vet to get her teeth cleaned. They also updated all of her shots and gave her a good grooming. Everyone said how great of a dog she was and that they loved her and hoped to see her again. I threw her over my shoulder and she gave me a big sloppy kiss.

With Roxy’s new outlook on life, she took kindly to taking longer walks. When our routine walk around the neighborhood got too boring for her, I took her to an old racetrack. Together we would walk throughout the mornings, occasionally taking a rest on the bleachers when she needed a break (she was old, after all). I always carried two bottles of water--one for each of us.

At a pond in West Laurel, Maryland, I would release the slack on her leash, allowing her to chase after a gaggle of large geese resting along the outer bank of a shallow lake. Hundreds of wings would take off into the water, and then Roxy would run back to be at my side with a sick grin planted from ear to ear.

She loved people, especially children. Whenever kids were around, she would gladly introduce herself and then lay at their feet, waiting for them to pet her. They would touch her face, pulling on her ears and gray whiskers. Sometimes I worried that the contact would irritate her, but it didn’t. Once she got enough attention, she would return to me ready to continue our walk. She was not social with other dogs. It was one of the few times I ever saw her irritated. For such a “happy-go-lucky” little dog full of energy, I never understood that about Roxy. I never tried to break her out of the habit, as long as she was not violent toward other dogs, which she was not. That was just Roxy, I guess; an attention whore.

One night, I read on a forum how much Boston Terriers loved tennis balls. So on my way home from work that evening, I stopped in at the store and bought her a couple of tennis balls. It did not go well with my first set. So the next day, I returned those and bought her a pack of three that let out a high-pitched sound similar to a birthday blower. Immediately, that got her attention as she looked up at me, tilting her head in curiosity.

High above her head, I waved the ball back and forth, drawing in her interest as her beady eyes followed the fuzzy green ball back and forth. She was hypnotized, standing on her legs, begging me to drop it. Instead, I lobbed it across the floor and she went nuts after it, biting the daylights out of the damn thing.

All it took was one squeeze of that tennis ball and I could get Roxy to stop whatever she was doing. Her new purpose in life was to destroy that tennis ball. She would spend thirty minutes to an hour biting a hole in the center to remove the plastic tip that caused the noise. Operating like a surgeon, she would remove the green skin surrounding the ball, peeling it down to its brown foam before shredding that to a thousand pieces. Then, once her work was done, she would pass out onto her side after a hard day’s work.

Like the innocent child she was, I could only give her the balls after her breakfast or dinner because it would be harder to get her eat. Whenever she came to eat, she would come with whatever ball she was working on stuffed inside of her mouth, dropping it next to her bowl to keep an eye on it while she devoured her food. I would mess with her, stealing her ball away from her. Then after her meal, she would come chasing after me for her ball. I would hide in the closet, laughing to myself as her little legs went dashing from room to room looking for me. Then, I would jump out and race back downstairs and she would be right behind me. To make it a fair fight, I would drop down onto my knees and wrestle her for it. After lettering her get a good grip on her ball, I would grab the other end and a tug of war was underway!

Whenever she would win, she would shoot underneath a table and hide. I always gave her a run for her money, sweeping her back legs or feinting at her, making her lock tighter onto her ball for security. She was elusive and quick, so whenever I caught her, I had to make it count, I would scoop her into my lap with the ball still stuck in her mouth and playfully slap the skin on her belly or tickle her back legs to make her drop it. Roxy would try to buck herself free, kicking her hind legs out like a mule before eventually spitting out her ball in playful agony. Off to the races we were again. I could always tell when she had enough play because she would collapse onto the floor, panting like mad. I would bring her out water and a couple of treats afterward, and lie beside her on the floor as she recovered. I worried sometimes whether or not I overdid her play, but later in the day, she always came back for more, jabbing at me with her ball for another session.

It felt good to come home to her, I swear. She would spring from her kennel (even on days when I was late) happy to see me. If I was off from work that day, she would lie next to me on the couch and we would watch movies. I’d pop a basket full of popcorn, tossing kernels at her, which she’d catch in her mouth. I never taught her that trick, by the way. Up until her vision got bad, she used to be very good at it. I swear, she was the greediest dog I had ever seen in my life! Believe it or not, she could also talk on the phone, barking into the speaker at the voice on the other end. The only voice she responded to over the phone was to my mother. Over the speaker, she would howl, sniff at the phone, or bark. It was so crazy.

Around that time, I had decided to go back to school shortly after I adopted Roxy so I balanced time between our play and school. Roxy would come upstairs with the ball stuffed inside of her mouth, teasing me, jabbing at my thigh for a fight. I would indulge her most times, but others I had to tell her no because I had papers to write or material to read. She never wolfed at me for doing that, not once. Rather, she would place her paws onto the chair, wagging her nub of a tail for me to pick her up. I would lift her and she would lie across my lap, sleeping there for hours until I finished my work. During a break, we would take a walk or play her favorite game. She was so understanding and patient with me during those days. When I finally graduated with my degree, I bought her about twenty squeaky balls and dropped them onto the floor all at once for her to play.

During my days off, I made sure to set aside at least one full day to dedicate to Roxy and nothing else. Whether we went to the park, for a drive, or hung out at the house, it would be her day. I could not care less what anybody thought about the bond I had with my dog and our closeness. At work, there were many opportunities to make almost double of what I was making, but that meant less time with Roxy, which I was not willing to do. Money cannot buy love and I could not do that to a friend…

Initially, I did not allow Roxy to sleep in the bed, but eventually she worked her magic onto me and found her way up there. During the winter, she would tunnel her way through the sheets and lie next to me to stay warm. When I got up to use the bathroom, she would lie on the floor outside of the door, waiting for me to finish. All within a short year, the two of us had become so incredibly attached to each other that whenever she was not around, I am not ashamed to say that I didn’t feel like myself.

Here we go again

Tiffani and I met in February of 2013. When she first started coming by the house, Roxy would dart toward the door, jumping up and down at her for attention. Their connection was almost immediate. Curious where I had gotten her, I told my future wife the story of how I had adopted Roxy after my Dad’s passing, and she was in awe. Coincidentally, she was a dog lover and therefore showed tremendous empathy toward my relationship with Roxy. My future in-laws also welcomed her along with their two dogs.

By July of 2015, my wife (then my fiancé) had moved in. The adjustment was a struggle for Roxy who felt the need to compete for my affection. Initially, she did not take to the idea well and at times showed her contempt. Roxy was never an aggressive dog, but she could be very stubborn if she did not get her way. For instance, there were a few times Roxy snapped at Tiffani went to pet her or tried moving her to the edge of the couch so the two of us could sit closer to one another. When I caught Roxy in the act, I would discipline her, and then her ears would fall back onto her head. Afterward, she would give Tiffani a dirty look or turn away from us with her back pointed at us in disdain.

Roxy worried that she was being swept to the back of the line once again. Despite her struggles early on, I knew with Tiffani’s warmth, eventually Roxy would give in to Tiffani moving in, and she would be fine.

In September of that year, tragedy struck our family again…

Tiffani would suffer from an unexplained stroke, and as a result, she was forced to move back home with her family until things improved. Her sudden illness started with an agonizing headache before graduating into a full-blown ischemic brainstem stroke, paralyzing her right side. It happened while she was visiting with her parents out of state. I was at my desk when I got the news. Right away, I rushed home to pack a bag for an overnight or three, grabbed Roxy, and hit the road. Life happened again.

The next year and a half would be a debacle, between long hours at work, back and forth at the hospital, doctors’ appointments and bouncing between two houses to care for Tiffani, I could barely catch my breath. I had been down this road before, shaking my head at my seemingly supernatural ability to shy away from tragedy. Through all the crap I had experienced in my life as of lately, aside from the support of family, I accredit my Roxy for keeping me sane.

Once more, Roxy took a step to the back of the line. I had no choice. Nights I could be with her, I made sure to give her extra playtime and love, but those were rare. In some instances, I would burn my personal leave at work just to ensure that I had a day or two to rest. Able to sense something was wrong, she would plop down next to me on the couch, placing her head into my lap, and never fuss.

Aging gracefully

Although Roxy’s appetite was still plentiful around that time, her age became telling. Slowly, our walks became shorter, as well as our playtime. No longer did she have the same dynamism chasing after tennis balls as she once did. The spring in her legs was gone. In her heyday, she leaped atop the bed in a single bound and dove from the couch with ease. I guess the first time I began noticing her decline was when she stopped catching popcorn thrown at her. During her prime, she would barely miss. When it came to the steps, instead of sprinting to the bottom like the Roxy of old, she took longer. Gone were the days that she pranced around the house in gymnastic artistry. There were a couple of falls but nothing too detrimental. She also went back to accidentally soiling the floor.

One Sunday, I had to rush her to the vet because she couldn’t stop tilting her head to the side. Thankfully, the vet treated her with antibiotics for her condition, but that was just the beginning of a list of health problems that would persist. Inside of her eyes, small cataracts began to form. Her hearing got bad, too. I would call for her and she would have a tough time trying to find me, sometimes rushing into the next room thinking that I was there; yet, I was standing just a couple feet away from her the entire time. It was worse at night. To get her attention, I would have to reach down and touch her.

It was sad to see such a vibrant and jubilant little dog hesitant during her walks or when socializing with people because she could not see. A couple of times she would accidentally bite if someone attempted to pet her, unable to distinguish whether she should protect herself or not. In the prime of her life, Roxy was not a biter. She was a lovable dog and anyone could pet her. Because of this, I stopped allowing people to touch her, especially children, because it began to startle her. In the bed at night, she would wake me up several times a night in need of a bathroom break. As a result, my wife and I had to kennel her again.

Late that year in 2016, Tiffani and I moved into a new home. By this time, frequent accidents were expected. To combat her leaky bladder, we bought her reusable dog diapers, which she soaked regularly despite bathroom breaks every hour. Due to an infection, a yucky, yellowish pus drained from her left eye. She also did strange things that were uncharacteristic of her, such as drinking her urine and eating her own excrement. At the vet’s office, the staff were scratching their heads trying to figure her out. Nobody knew. I wondered if Roxy was beginning to show signs of dementia. One day, her belly was so swollen it looked as if she had swallowed a bowling ball. Back to the vet she went for costlier antibiotics. Her veterinarian diagnosed her condition as Cushing’s Disease. Occasionally, Roxy moved with the pep and step of her golden days, but efforts to resurrect the old Roxy were largely overshadowed by her present state. The skin across her back started to sag and bald, leaving behind a nasty rash due to an unknown allergic reaction. Once in a single week, my wife and I spent $1,200 attempting to care for Roxy. These trips were expensive and it did not seem to improve her state of health. Already, money in our house was extremely tight due to a myriad of reasons. I feared that the end was near. In recent weeks, she had become inactive for the most part, succumbing to sleeping all day. My friend was trying to tell me something…

Crossing the Rainbow Bridge

In her final days, she spent the majority of her time sprawled across the living room floor for most of her day. The only time she moved was to eat or use the restroom. No tennis balls. No longer was she spunky or the funny little comedian we once remembered her to be. The light shining through the cornea of her eyes was no longer glimmered from the joy of chasing geese into the pond or stretching out in the grass to sunbathe her coat of black fur. This new light, unfortunately, was the kind of light indicative of an inevitable ending. The game was over.

Two weeks prior to her death, Roxy began skipping her meals, which was a first for her since Dad had passed. Now, her nose would lead her to a precautious walk before eventually finding her bowl. After a couple of hard sniffs and a nibble or two, she would retreat to the living room where she went back to sprawling across the floor. I worried about her. Our walks had reduced so significantly that, close to the end of her life, I could barely get her to leave the front of our house without her turning to go back inside. The fire was out. I had come to the end of my promise.

On the day we put her down, a Sunday, a chill had swept across the region throughout the week leaving pockets of rain here and there. The days were dark and dreary with cloudy skies and gloom. I got out of bed around seven or eight that morning and went down to wake up Roxy who was asleep inside of her kennel. Like most mornings within the previous few months, it took more effort for me to wake her. Prior to that, a call of her name was enough for her ears to erect, and the day was underway. Lately, I would have to call out her name several times before she would wake, some days going as far as giving her cage a light shake before she would eventually awaken.

When she did awaken that morning, she didn’t seem her normal self. She stood at the door of her kennel, staring straight ahead at the wall at a picture of the two of us before she finally moved. When she finally decided to leave the kennel, she stumbled into the wall a couple of times. Her walk was slow and deliberate with the right side of her head tilting toward the floor. At first, I chalked up her morning mishaps to her being tired or a bit off balance. Sometimes the rigors of a good night’s sleep could do that to a person--perhaps even a dog.

I took her outside a few minutes later to use the bathroom. During her walk, Roxy continued to stumble. She crawled out into the middle of the yard, stooping on her hind legs to relieve herself with the frailty of her aging body ever so present. Before heading back into the house right away, I took a seat on the front steps, watching her. She could barely make it up the two steps leading into the front door. Instead, she gave up and took a seat next to me at the bottom of the stairs before spreading out on the ground, and somehow then I knew. It was time. After staring off into space for a few minutes, I picked up Roxy and took her back into the house.

I could barely make out the words to my wife later that morning that Roxy’s time had come before crumbling into Tiffani’s arms. It was the first time she had ever seen me cry in the four years we had been together. I decided then that before I would take the painful action of putting my best friend down, we would have one last chance to spend the day together.

We started the morning at Mom’s, Roxy and me. As she wandered almost recklessly throughout Mom’s backyard finding a comfortable spot for her to relieve herself, the two of us watched her pitifully. I called to Roxy and rather than run back at me like her old self, she continued to mosey helplessly in circles with her head tilted toward the ground.

“This is probably going to be the last time that you’re going to see her,” I said to my mother, fighting back tears. I could not fathom the realization of not having this little dog in my life, not after all we had been through. I am usually not a crier; but I cried that day. Just the thought of losing such a little heartthrob named Roxy took a severe toll on me. There is a feeling you get deep inside when your heart breaks. It is an indescribable feeling. It feels like your soul is stripping away your sense of identity. Despair and dispiritedness attach to your lungs, making it hard to breathe and all that is left to do is cry. It hurts; burns like hell. I would not wish it on my worst enemy.

Before saying goodbye, Roxy and I took one final trip to the park not far from my mother’s house before heading back home. Prior to taking Roxy for her last few steps across a sea of grass at Collington Station Neighborhood Park, I reminisced behind the wheel of my car all the love Roxy had given our family throughout her thirteen years. I think back to when she was just a puppy and so tiny she could fit into palm of my hand. My sister-in-law had just gotten her. When I would go to visit, she would be asleep inside of her kennel, and as soon as she’d see me, she would start to jump up and down. I would pick her up, and even back then, we would play for hours.

I would have never guessed after all these years that fate would see it fit that the two of us were destined for one another. Memories flooded of her first tennis balls and the days I’d open the sunroof of my Acura; we’d ride around town just for the hell of it. She loved going for rides. We had so much fun. I thought about the days it would pour down on us and how I used to pick her up, carrying her underneath my coat to shield her from the rain. When I was sick in bed for three days, Roxy never left my side. I thought about my so-called “friends” throughout the years. How they had come and gone. Yet, Roxy stuck by me through it all.

Out at the park that afternoon, she could barely stand. Falling over onto her muzzled whiskers, she still attempted to follow behind at the pleasure of serving her master, despite her health. I took a seat on the bench, watching her lie on a mound of grass in front of me. Looking down at her, I could not help but to explode into tears at the thought of putting my friend to sleep. Even on her worst day she served to please with a heart full of gold, but her time was over. I whipped out my cell phone, kneeling down in front of her to capture one last video of her time on this earth. Exhausted from the short walk, she could barely keep her eyes open.

Later that evening at home, my wife and I planned for the inevitable later that Sunday evening. Together, we embraced each other at the bottom of the staircase near the foyer as we came to grips with killing our beloved pet. Roxy was asleep at the time on the living floor when the most amazing thing happened. We were crying our eyes out when suddenly, she wandered her way in the room to join us. After almost smacking her face into the hallway wall, her head tilting toward the floor, she was determined to find us. I took it as a sign. Perhaps it wasn’t to console us, but I thought it was her way of saying “thank you” for everything. She understood. Thank you for all the tennis balls and times you came home early just for me when you didn’t have to, but you did. Thank you for giving me a place to sleep and food to eat and for taking care of me. Thank you for giving me a chance when nobody else seemed to want me. Last but not least, thank you for loving me. It was at that moment I knew she understood. Roxy had had enough and letting her go was the right thing to do.

On the way to the vet, I held Roxy in my arms. Along the way, she praised us with her “thank yous” in the form of kisses. I wondered how well she understood things, and if so, how she would reminisce during the final moments of her life. Was she aware that we were on the verge of putting her down? While enroute, my wife patted the smooth fur along her spiny back, as I stroked the silky pad of skin inside of her ear (her favorite spot) and assured her that I would be there for her. Sitting outside the door of the clinic in the front seat of my wife’s car, I hugged Roxy one last time before carrying her through the double doors of the front lobby. She blessed me with one last kiss to my face, and I lost it again.

“I’m going to miss you,” I said, looking down at my pooch before melting into pieces. My wife’s tears soon followed, and we could have filled up the car with enough water to create a swimming pool. I wanted to change my mind about going through with the procedure, but I couldn’t bring myself to let her suffer anymore. If not for my own selfish ways, Roxy had been through far too much and deserved to go out with some sort of dignity. I could not bring myself to continue holding her hostage any longer. She had given enough.

Tiffani and I could barely keep it together inside the veterinary hospital. I carried Roxy on top of my shoulder as other visitors stared at us with sympathy. The looks on their faces said it all. I was scared, nervous, and again felt overwhelmed with doubt about going through with putting my dog down.

I approached the front desk, tears welling inside of my eyes, and told the receptionist, Cheryl, that I was there that evening to put my dog down. Immediately, we were whisked away and taken to the back of the facility into a room where Roxy would spend her final moments. Cheryl provided us with a brief questionnaire to fill out. I could barely make out the form; my eyes were so watery and sore. Before leaving the three of us alone, the woman promised that a technician would stop in to speak with us about the procedure. She asked if it was okay for her to take Roxy in the back where they would insert a catheter into her. I declined at first but ultimately allowed the technician to take her.

Less than ten minutes later, the technician returned Roxy, a catheter dangling from her left foreleg wrapped in a pink cloth. Clutching onto my dog, knowing her life would soon be over, the technician allowed for my wife and me to say our final goodbyes, leaving us alone with Roxy. We petted her, stroking her as she rested comfortably in my lap, woozy from a pre-dose of whatever toxin they had just given to her to keep her calm. I kissed the top of her head, telling my dog that everything was going to be alright. She had done her time and I loved her with all of my heart and soul. Before we put her down, I took a second to thank her for all she had done for me. I told Roxy that her time to us was invaluable and I would never forget her.

The technician entered the room sporting a lab coat reminiscent of the Grim Reaper’s dark robe. Reaper gave us a breakdown of the procedure, saying Roxy’s death would be quick and painless. She asked if we wanted to be present in the room during the procedure and I answered assuredly.

“I’m going to be here--I’m not leaving.”

For all I had been through in my life up to that point, there was nothing in this great world that would’ve kept me from being at Roxy’s side during her trip across the rainbow bridge. Prior to her becoming my dog at our house on Scott Place, I didn’t know what love was. In fact, I couldn’t spell it. Then, like new life, she came into my world--born at the doorstep of my young and foolish immaturity. She taught me how to love and I was forever grateful.

The technician asked for me to place Roxy onto the table, I did, lifting her onto the metal slab, wrapping myself around her back, as tight as an anaconda. I thought my heart was going to implode. Reaper administered the first dose causing Roxy to gag slightly. During the second dose, Roxy’s eyes lowered to a lazy squint, similar to when I rubbed the inside of her earlobe. I squeezed my friend tighter as if I was trying to prevent her from running off, but she had already set her sights on the grassy knoll up ahead leading into the light... That’s when Reaper delivered the final blow. It struck her bloodstream, shutting down the valves of her tiny heart once and for all. I looked back up at Reaper who nodded at me to assure her devilish work had been completed. I glanced over at Roxy one last time to see if, somehow, she had survived the evil work from the monster of death, but she didn’t make it. Roxy was gone...

I wailed and screamed as loud as my lungs could stand before banging my head repeatedly into the metal slab where my dead dog lay. My wife embraced me from the rear as I grieved overtop of Roxy’s lifeless body, still clutching onto her. Quietly, the technician slipped into the hallway allowing Tiffani and me to mourn.

I apologized to Roxy, telling her that I was sorry for putting her down but my wife would not allow that kind of talk. She repeated to me that putting down Roxy was the right thing and that my dog was in a better place. Tiffani reminded me of how much better Roxy’s life had been since I had taken her in six years ago, and I started to come around.

“You gave her a good life,” my wife said to me. “Nobody else could’ve done that but you, babe, and I know your Dad is proud of the job you did with her, and so is Roxy. You took good care of her and I know she thanks you for that.”

Before leaving her lifeless body that evening, I leaned down kissed Roxy once more on her head and removed her dog collar. Shortly thereafter, the technician returned to our room to check on us. I told the woman that we were doing okay, and she offered her condolences. Before she would carry away Roxy’s body, I asked if it was possible for the hospital to cremate her. I wanted something of hers to remember her by. The technician asked if it was okay to take away Roxy’s body, and I told her it was. Carefully, Reaper wrapped Roxy’s motionless body in a blanket and carried her to the back. It was the one of the most painful experiences of my life.

On the way home, my wife and I stopped past my mom’s house, as it was on the way. There, we celebrated our little friend’s legacy with delicate memories. Mom kept the mood light, offering us wine and indulging us with stories about my precious Roxy. It worked for the time being and gave me something to smile about, but it could never repair the damage to my broken heart. Mom spoke about times when I would go away and she looked after Roxy. She said Roxy would pin herself by the front door of her home waiting for me to pick her up. How the mere sound of my name would move her ears upright, causing her to pace back and forth, waiting for me to walk through that door. Then as I walked through the door, Roxy would lay those big, brown eyes on me, dive into my arms, and shower me with kisses. We laughed about that, her obsession with squeaky tennis balls, and how the word “food” sent shockwaves throughout her nervous system.

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