This post was supposed to be about my trip to Costa Rica. That changed when I talked to my mom yesterday morning and I learned that Harrison, my ailing 13-year-old dog, had been put to sleep while I was away.
For months I had been dreading the news. Maybe I had been dreading it ever since I received the phone call about Casey a year and a half ago, also on a Sunday, also when I wasn’t expecting it. Maybe I had a feeling as I got on the plane to Costa Rica that I would come back and hear that my little boy, not so much a boy anymore, had lived all he could live. Maybe I knew that by booking my trip only hours before I would have instead booked a flight to San Diego, that it was fate that I wouldn’t be there to say goodbye to my brother in his last days. Maybe it was best that the internet was spotty, and that I last talked to my mom via email the night before she and my dad took Harrison to the vet.
Every time I got a call from my parents since Harrison started declining, a spinal tumor taking the sensation from his legs, his kidneys struggling to function, I thought it was time. But then Mom would say he had perked up and he was eating, he was fine, he was a trooper. Until yesterday, when she let me ramble on about my trip for a full 10 minutes. “So, what have you guys been up to?” I asked cheerfully. “It’s been a pretty rough week…” she started. And I knew it was more than Harrison being sick. He was gone.
Gone, another brother, another amazing, smart, adorable Corgi who led a full life and gave us every ounce of love he possibly could. We got him as a puppy. We picked him from the litter at the Heaths, just like we did again at Christmas in 2009 when we went back for McGee. We brought him home in the backseat next to me. We were still in pain from Rocky’s death just a couple of months earlier. Who knew that he, and then his brother Casey, would bring us such joy, such happiness?
On my trip last week, one of my new-found friends asked me and another girl what animal we would be if we could choose. I had always said a dog…they just top my list. But until that afternoon as we sat under the patio in the rain looking out at the beach, I hadn’t realized why: dogs only need food, sleep, and the love of their people. It’s that simple. Life doesn’t get much better.
Harrison put every fiber of his being into those three principles. When it was time to eat, he came running, inhaled it, and then ran outside. When he wasn’t eating, he was sleeping — on the couch, on our laps, in my parents’ bed, on the cool floor, on the carpet, in the sun outside. And all the rest of the time, he was loving us and absorbing our love. You could massage his back for hours. He would cuddle up right next to you to take a nap — he loved being the little spoon. If we were outside and he was nosing around smelling and breathing in the fresh air, all you had to do was crouch down and call his name, and he would come bounding, sprinting even, over to you, a grin on his face and his long tongue flapping around. When he was disciplined, he cried. Real tears, this boy. Eyes blinking, ears back, he was either a really good actor, or he just got that emotional.
We had a million nicknames for Casey but the only one that really stuck was Heedy, our variation of Harry. Heedy Beeby, our little baby.
Saying goodbye to Casey was a shock. And as before, because I’m not home with my parents, it hasn’t quite hit me yet. I’m still thinking I’ll walk in the door in August and not just see McGee, but Harrison too, even if I have to go to him. I haven’t absorbed that for real this time, “da boys” are no more…it’s just one. McGee is amazing and he and I have a special connection, but Harrison was my puppy that I watched grow up. He and Casey were my companions through my teenage years, the years when you really need someone there, not judging you, just loving you. They were really good listeners. They gave really good hugs. They let me sing to them. They greeted me everyday after school. They let me tell them my secrets, and my fears. Harrison’s long coat was wet with many of my tears.
I knew this day would come, when both of my boys would be gone. But as tough as it is to say goodbye, I know that they are now together, brothers again, looking down on their people with love.