My life changed forever on a cold night last January. I remember it vividly. I was on my way back from Best Buy, having gone to pick up my repaired laptop. I received a phone call from my mother.
I had already known my dog, Storm, was sick. My mother found blood all over our carpet when she had gone downstairs two days earlier. She found Storm lying on his side, blood pouring out of his burst lymph node. He appeared to be on his death bed.
When I took that phone call, I was hoping for the best and expecting the worst. I got the latter. Storm had lymphoma. I smashed my right hand into the center console, breaking it. I was in a twisted fit of rage, sadness and disbelief.
Storm soldiered on. He went through one round of chemotherapy, but it took such a brutal toll that we decided enough was enough. We put him on painkillers and decided to wait for a sign.
He had regular veterinary visits. Before he was sick, Storm was beloved at the vet. He was so well-behaved and friendly that the employees let him walk around the office during his stays there. After he was diagnosed, he was dubbed the “wonder dog” because he’d long-beaten his prognosis and was in good spirits. To the naked eye, nothing seemed wrong with him as he reached his 13th birthday.
Everything changed this weekend. He stopped eating. He stopped drinking. He couldn’t do his business without falling over. His lymph nodes were so enlarged in his throat that every breath became strained. He stopped giving me kisses on my chin. That twinkle in his eye began to fade.
It was time.
Driving to the vet, “Clocks” by Coldplay came on the radio. I started to reflect on Storm’s life and my own, how intertwined they were, how he was my best friend, how he helped to fill the void my father left when he passed away when I was 8. I was struggling to hold myself together while I thought about how quickly time had passed.
As always, Storm was the perfect gentleman at the vet. Various nurses and doctors came to say their goodbyes to the dog whose name they knew all too well.
I looked him in the eyes. I said I loved him. I said he was a great dog and an even better friend. I said I would miss him and that he was going to a better place. I said goodbye.
I’ll never forget seeing the life leave his eyes, holding his paw as it went limp. I’ll never forget the doctor saying “he’s gone,” and the weight of his departure hitting me like a ton of bricks.
Sitting there with my mom and brother, we couldn’t help feel like we killed him. But deep down, we knew then and now that wasn’t the truth. We were just sending him onto the next stage.
Finding meaning in life can be difficult. In time, the memories of last Sunday will be surpassed by all the great times I had with Storm. I’ll remember his droopy ears and cute face. I’ll remember his chemical-weapon farts and sheepish grin. I’ll remember lying on the floor and have him greet me by licking my ear or my armpits.
I’ll remember my best friend for the life he lived, and not for the way it ended. Not goodbye, but good life.