It seems the inevitable could be prolonged no longer. This afternoon Squirt crossed over the rainbow bridge at the vet’s office. When I worked in the pet industry I thought that was such a silly phrase — “cross over the rainbow bridge,” but now it seems fitting. “Died” is too harsh, “passed away” too proper. So “cross over the rainbow bridge” it is.
Even though we had a month to prepare for this, you’re never really ready. We got Squirt when he was 1 year old and had him for 14 years — more than half my life. I should speak fondly of him, saying he was a good dog, but as any friend or family member (or repairman) who visited my parents’ house over the past 14 years can attest, he was a mean little bugger. But he came from a troubled background, years before my job would entail reading and writing about dog training, so we did the best we could as inexperienced as we were.
Though it’s sad to say goodbye — especially from across the ocean — lately he hasn’t been the same dog we adopted on July 29, 2000. Over the course of his life he had two loves (no, not people and other dogs): walks and food. Neighbors used to joke that he was the most well-walked dog out there. When I was in high school I used to attach him to my Razor scooter and make him pull me around the neighborhood. (Yes, I made a 12-pound Chihuahua pull me like an Iditarod husky.) On our long walks pre-Fitbit I used to have to beg and pull him to turn around. As he got older, he slowly stopped walking so far and eventually was content to just explore the front yard, especially when he discovered he could get a treat for every time he went out. He had a one-track mind at that point: food. We could not enjoy a meal without him barking alongside us, all because 14 years ago someone decided to feed him a table scrap (who that someone is is still up for debate in my family). When I was back home just this April I had to sneak around the house during the day because if he noticed me, he’d start barking for his dinner two hours early. So when a month ago my mom told me he wouldn’t eat his dog food anyone, I knew something was wrong. He was not the same Squirt I knew. Over the past month he indulged in various people foods, from pancakes and eggs to fish and chicken until whatever was ailing him — canine cognitive disorder (doggie Alzheimer’s) and cancer, likely — prevented him from eating even boiled chicken. In a prime example of a head-on collision between comedy and tragedy, yesterday he sat in his food bowl, staring out into space. My parents sent me a photo and I could not stop laughing (and crying). It was time. He would not eat or drink, could barely walk, and seemed to have no mental capacity left whatsoever. The inevitable could no longer be prolonged.
I want to thank my parents for taking such good care of him in his final days and for making the difficult decision to put him down while he was suffering. Know that however hard it was and while it might not seem like it right away, you did the right thing.
And little dude — I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for you in the end, but I’m not sure you’d know who I was anyway. I’ll remember you at your best, like when I tried to enter you in a local dog show our first summer together and you almost bit the judge. One day I’ll see you again on the other side, probably by the unlimited cheese buffet. (And as the poem goes, we’ll cross the rainbow bridge together).