My birthday was October 13, and this year my children decided to give me a surprise visit. Dave was returning home from a business trip on the 12th, and I had an acupuncture appointment that afternoon and then knit night later that evening. He and the girls figured that they could slip in while I was out, do a bit of light cleaning, and surprise me. But that morning, my car decided to start with every single warning light on, so I decided to play it safe and hitched a ride with a friend. That afternoon, another friend drove me home, followed me out to the repair shop to drop off my car, and then dropped me home. And here’s where the wheels came off the cart.

January 7, 2012

I walked in the door and realized something was wrong because Livvie, our black Lab, wasn’t at the top of the stairs waiting to say hello. When I rounded the corner, I saw her lying on her rug, ears perked up, tail wagging, happy to see me. But when she went to stand, she fell immediately. No amount of cajoling could keep her lying down because she’s a Lab. So, no car, no husband, and a dog that can’t stand. A quick call to Dave revealed what was going on, and another call to the girls told them that their surprise was blown. Still, without a car, there wasn’t a way to get Livvie to the vet other than to rely on a very good friend. But that’s the route I had to take.

While waiting for the appointment, I carried Livvie outside, and that’s when I knew that things weren’t going to have a happy ending. She could barely stand long enough to do her business, and I started crying. Once inside, the mother in me kicked in  and did the dishes. All the while, Livvie lying happily at my feet.

Dave and the girls met my friend and me at the vet’s office. We waited while another family came out teary eyed, knowing that this might be us. The girls, who tolerated the pup at home, cried. Dave and I cried. My friend teared up. And then it was our turn. I’d been in this examining room before. It’s tucked away, behind the counter, behind the other “official” exam rooms. Livvie was nervous and panicky and with good reason. The last time she was in this room, they gave us an option: fix the twisted stomach or put her down. I chose the first option five years earlier. But tonight, it wouldn’t be the choice I would make. The vet told us that her spine was deteriorating rapidly, her hind legs lacked most of their muscles, her weight had decreased by about 30 pounds, and she had vestibular syndrome. Nothing that the vet was telling us made any sense with treatment. Not with a 13-year-old large Lab.

So, Dave and I sat on the floor with her while they gave her a sedative and stroked her head and told her that we were sorry and waited until the vet told us that her heart had stopped beating. We sat for a while longer and went through the rest of the tissues and swore that we were done with dogs. The girls waited for us in the waiting room while other families chasing their puppies and kittens.

October 12, 2012

And so we went home without Livvie to the cats who loved her and cried all night when they couldn’t find her. My birthday was bittersweet. I walked in my first 5K with a decent time of 47:29 (didn’t really break a sweat). We enjoyed dinner out at one of our favorite Indian restaurants and saw Seven Psychopaths. Dave took the girls home the next day, and I revised papers. But first, I processed the photo that I took of Livvie in the kitchen on that last day. Content. Near my feet. Just her.