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A letter to my little man...

Updated: Aug 1, 2019

Dear Colby,

Thank you for allowing me to call you by many names: Colby, Colby Jack, Little Ol' Man Dog, My Lil' Man, and Waddlebutt just to name a few. I remember the first time I met you, it was the first time I came to visit your dad at his house and you were barking at me in the window. I immediately fell for you. You have eyes like mine, big and round, that can get you into and out of all kinds of trouble. You were 14 at the time and full of life.

Your dad hated leaving you for Virginia, and he talked about you nearly every day. I had a picture of you printed to put in our living room so you were never forgotten. When the time came to move from Virginia to Little Rock, we made sure to get a pet friendly apartment so you could be there too. Daddy sent me on the 9.5 hour treck back to San Antonio to get you, and I was so excited. It was always my goal to make sure that your dad was as happy as he could be, and I knew, because he and I are so much alike, that his life felt incomplete without you. So while he worked, I gathered you up and sat you next to me in my car and we headed back to The Natural State stopping every so often to give you water and walk you. Your little sausage legs were still rather strong.

That was October of 2017. Having you there, seeing that light in your daddy's eyes shine was such a warm feeling. He worried you might not make it six more months. I convinced him, you still had a couple years left in you. By June of 2018, I began to worry I might be wrong. I thought we lost you as it was clear your mind began to fail you. A few medications and you were back, though not nearly as fast as you were before.

You were just the right cuddle buddy and both your daddy and I fought as to who could hold you for the night. He, rightfully, almost always won. I spoiled the hell out of you. I promised your daddy that my goal for you was to give you the best life for all the days, weeks, months, and maybe years you had left. When I wasn't Ubering, I took you for car rides. I chased you around the house. I let you follow me in the kitchen as I cooked, even though I absolutely hate anyone in the kitchen with me. I danced with you and sang to you to song after song, though I'm sure you didn't care much for this, and I'm certain in these moments you were grateful to be mostly deaf.

On the night before Thanksgiving 2018, you gave us another scare. I laid by you all night and massaged those same little sausage legs which were starting to tense up and prayed. I remember whispering in your ear that if you needed to go, I'd take care of your daddy. By Thanksgiving day though you were back to your old self, begging for ham. That was strike 2.

Strike 3 came at the beginning of 2019 when you had another episode. We took you to the vet and they gave us the news we'd both been dreading and anticipating, you had kidney failure. Daddy held you tight as a couple of tears streamed from his eyes. But you didn't die. In fact, you had quite the turn around. You were running again, you were eating again, and for a few months you were my little miracle man.

Then came July 1st, 2019. You and I had just gotten back from visiting daddy in Tyler as he finished the first week of his new job. You weren't really up to eating which was my first red flag. As I stood there in the kitchen, I was overcome with a sense of dread. It stopped me in my tracks and I froze as if death were standing to my right. After the feeling passed I sent both your dad and your cousin a Marco Polo telling them about it. Daddy convinced me to go to bed and so I did. I put you next to me and closed my eyes.

At 3:58 my bladder felt like it was about to burst. I ran to the bathroom as your sister, Bridget Jones, seemed more frazzled than normal. When I got back to the bed, I noticed you weren't next to me. I looked under the bed. I looked in your bed. I looked in the closet.

Then I looked at the floor of the foot of the bed. The duvet had falled off the bed, and I as I bent down to pick it up, there you were, drenched in what I assume was urine. I could feel my heart pounding in my ears. That sense of dread that visited earlier was back. You were wrapped so tightly in that duvet it almost felt like someone tied you in the there. I uncovered it to see your little, limp body, your neck falling back as if it was broken. I screamed. I didn't know what else to do, it was a visceral scream. My little man was dead.

I placed you softly on the bed and did the only thing that came to mind. I breathed into your mouth and watch your little body, which had been rapidly withering away the past few months expand. Then, with all the energy you could muster, you began panting. I frantically called your dad who miraculously answered. "Come home baby."

I sat next to you, begging you to hold on for a couple more hours. I knew daddy always wanted to be there to say goodbye. I put water on your tongue and watched you lick it off . You seized once and the drinking stopped. I just continued petting you and praying.

The alarm told me that daddy was home. I went to the door to open it. I held his hand as we walked into the room together.

"Oh my baby." he said softly.

He laid next to you, holding you, with me on the other side for a few hours while we drifted in and out of sleep. I was hoping this had all been a bad dream. By 8 am, we were both awake again trying to figure out the next steps, vacillating between crying and sharing our favorite memories.

Then, your life was back, the light was back in your eyes. Your good eye was able to see us again. You lifted your neck which you hadn't done all night. You struggled to stand, but soon found it impossible. Daddy held you on his chest as you stared into each other's eyes. Then you tried to stand again. The pain must've been unbearable because you began moaning, and then your eyes froze on daddy's.

Both daddy and I said that when it was time, we'd be in agreement and that somehow you would let us know. I turned to daddy and said with all the strength I could muster, "I think it's time." Daddy nodded.

And then we went, to the same vet that diagnosed you with kidney failure months ago, who didn't think you had much time left in you then. You were always a defier of odds. You share that trait with your daddy. I watched daddy so bravely give you to the vet to place your IV. Then they told us to spend as much time with you as we needed and so we did. We each held you, petted you, played with your Jar Jar Binks ears, and then looked at each other to signal our time was up.

The next few minutes seemed to go by in slow motion. I knew what was coming. So did daddy. Deep down I wanted to stop it for my own selfish reasons. I wasn't ready. But I promised to give you the best life and not one of suffering, so I didn't stop them. The vet cried as she told daddy that you passed.

Daddy let out the most piercing cry I've ever heard from him. I know I'll hear it again, perhaps when a member of his family passes, but I pray (plead even) for that not to be anytime soon. It's so hard to hear the one you love so much express so much pain while there's absolutely nothing you can do to take it away.

Your dad, being the wonderful RN that he is, had an idea of bathing you after you crossed over. So with a little wash cloth and water, we cleaned you up. We wiped your ears, and those little eye boogers you get and cleaned those little sausage legs which were now free from old age, free to run as far and as fast as ever.

It was the most beautiful thing I've ever experienced in my life. The pain was so palpable, but I don't know that I've ever experienced love that was just as palpable. Your daddy loved you so much. And while I didn't get the first 14 years with you, I loved you as much as I could love anything.

We were an awesome trio turned into an awesome quartet. BTW thanks for letting your sister be rough with you and not killing her. Yeah, you were 98 in dog years, but your fierce side never left. She loved you. To this day, if we close the bedroom door, she lets out the saddest meow ever, a sound she never made until you passed.

Thank you Little Man Colby for being there to comfort me in some of the depressive moments I've had the past two years. Thank you for making me laugh. Thank you for lighting up your daddy's eyes. Thank you for holding on until he got home. You were the strongest animal I've ever known. Most of all, thank you for letting me witness your passing. As heart breaking as it was, it was, perhaps, the most spiritual experience I've had to date. I promise you this, your daddy will be well taken care of. He already is. You know how much I spoil him. Your sister has helped me not cry as much. She's been quite affectionate, which you know, is not usual. This household may change. New food bowls may be laid on the ground. New beds may take the place of yours someday, but your presence will never be forgotten.

I hope you hear me talking to you in the morning as I feed Bridget and at night as I turn out the lights. It may be crazy, but it keeps the tears at bay.

Love, your other daddy,