Twelve years ago, Jason and I were newlyweds and, like many, desperately wanted a puppy to test out our future parenting skills on. I somehow found an old lady who rescued young motherless pups, nursed them to health, then found homes for them. We went out to see what she had, and were taken by a group of Cocker Spaniel mix puppies. The fattest one we saw did not match her brothers and sisters, who were black and looked like purebred cocker pups. This little girl was tan, looked more like a hound, and wriggled her way to the top, taking us immediately with her big brown eyes, puppy kisses and cuteness. A week later she was weaned and I rode home with her in my lap. We had to stop half way, though, for Jason to take a turn.
Darla quickly became the neighborhood favorite. Everyone would stop and "awwww" over her. She was always happy, somewhat precocious, but never truly bad. Well, we did have to replace an entire condo full of carpet thanks to her chewing "phase," and I did find out the hard way more than once that WD40 removes ink stains from carpet (she had a taste for Bic pens), but overall, she was a snuggle bug.
There was no mistake that Darla was a happy dog. She loved everyone. Her tail was too short to adequately wag enough to let people know this, so instead she wagged her entire body. And if you gave her a hug, she would reward you with a fantastic "love grunt' (uuummmppphhhh) and a full body lean (her version of a hug) to let you know she was reciprocating the love. She'd sigh with contentment under my feet as I'd rub her back and work at a desk. She'd romp along side me at the river. She loved to travel (well at least until one fateful day when she fell out of the car - another story for another time), and especially loved weekends with Jason's family, where she would be fed a steady diet of roast beef, mashed potatoes and the occasional McDonald's cheeseburger, which Jason's dad would drive out to get, exclusively for her. She was spoiled rotten, but gracious enough to return the favor by spoiling us with her love, too.
Over the last several months, though, Darla began to lose weight. The lumps that were previously benign throughout her body began to take on new, hard shapes. And then Wednesday I noticed a spot on her belly, and it looked really bad. I took her to the vet and they confirmed my worst fears. Cancer had taken over. We brought her home, made her comfortable with pain killers and I tried to decide when and how to let my dear old friend go.
I spent the last two days agonizing over the decision. I talked with Katie, dealing with her very adult questions from her that I have no clue how to answer adequately. I tried to put things in terms Sadie would understand. I fed Darla every scrap she could possibly want. We snuggled. I got some kisses. I even got a love grunt. But the spot was getting worse rapidly. So today I told the girls we needed to say goodbye. I dropped them off at my parents and headed out for the hardest trip to a vet anyone ever has to make.
I carried my old friend into the vet's office this afternoon, and couldn't keep it together long enough to even tell them what appointment time I had. Tears streamed down my face as I held her, shaking in my arms, until the receptionist could figure out who we were - I didn't have the words for it. We found our way to a room, the doctor reaffirmed that this was the time, and I held her in my arms as she slipped peacefully away. I brought her home, Jason helped me dig a grave, and we laid her to rest. I. Am. Heartbroken.
I wish I could write a beautiful, more fitting tribute to Darla's life - a life that touched my heart and soul to their very core. But I guess that, in itself, is a tribute. That a furry friend could be such a huge member of the family. That she touched our lives, especially mine, so deeply. That she made our lives so much richer simply by her presence. I will miss her so very much.
to come escort this beloved companion across the Rainbow Bridge.
Assign her to a place of honor,
and has always done her best to please me.
Bless the hands that send her to you,
for they are doing so in love and compassion,
freeing her from pain and suffering.
Grant me the strength not to dwell on my loss.
Help me remember the details of her life
with the love she has shown me.
And grant me the courage to honor her
by sharing those memories with others.
Let her remember me as well
and let her know that I will always love her.
And when it's my time to pass over into your paradise,
please allow her to accompany those
who will bring me home.
Thank you, Lord,
for the gift of her companionship
and for the time we've had together.
And thank you, Lord,
for granting me the strength
to give her to you now.