I can remember it clearly. My mom picked me up from day care in the little Toyota. “Brett,” she said “I have a surprise for you at home.”
Not being a skinny kid, my first thought turned to food. “Is it a candy bar?” I asked. All my mom would say was maybe.
When we got home, my dad was there, which was unusual. He usually worked later because of his job. At first, I thought this was my surprise, and I was happy to have dad home early. But then dad brought her out. My parents told me her name was Suzie.
She was a white ball of fluff, full of energy. I loved her like a sister. We played together, and grew up together. It’s cliched, but that Lhasa Apso really was my best friend.
When we had show and tell in Kindergarten, I asked my mom to bring Suzie. She did. While other kids were busy showing off photos from vacations, I waited for mom to show. Needless to say, Suzie was a hit.
Suzie was there for me in the good times and the bad, just like a true friend. When I was healthy, we played. When I was sick, she stayed by my side. For all intents and purposes, I might as well have been one of her puppies.
During the recuperation for my shunt surgery, Suzie never left my side. If I had to use the restroom or shower, she stayed outside and howled until I was within her sight. She knew I was sick, and she wanted to make sure I was okay.
A few years later, the shunt failed, and I slipped into a coma. Suzie was there with me. According to my dad, she bit him when he tried to get me out of bed. She knew something was wrong, and was just trying to protect me. Dad wasn’t angry, but his first priority was me. He and mom got me to the hospital, where I underwent a third ventricularostimy.
When I awoke, it was like an episode from the X-files. Tubes down my throat and in both arm. Doctors said I would be in ICU for a month, and the regular hospital for another two.
I was home inside a week. Damnit, I wanted to get home to see my dog!
Through the recuperation of my second surgery, Suzie was there. She kept me company through those dark months. Those brown eyes were the last thing I saw at night, and the first thing I looked for in the morning.
Then the morning I noticed the lump.
I was 20. Suzie was fixing to turn 17 in a few months time. My parents were out of town, but that wasn’t a big deal.
I woke up. Suzie was sleeping on her side as usual. I rubbed her belly to tell her she was a good dog. Except there was something not right. Her stomach was burning up, so I rolled her on her back. That was when I saw a lump about the size of a baseball that had not been there the night before.
It was too early for the Vet’s office to open by a good hour, so I showered, and made myself some breakfast. I then put Suzie into my car, and drove her.
The news the Vet told me shocked me. He said Suzie had Breast cancer. My grandma had had it, but I never thought of a dog getting it. He said he could do a mastectomy on Suzie, that the cost was $1000. I asked how long the recovery would take, and he said it varied, but usually six months to a year.
When I got home, I called my parents. I told them what the doctor said. They said they would be home that night, and we discuss it.
I expected dad to throw a fit about $1000 dollars, but he knew how much Suzie meant to me. Instead, he said, “I don’t care about the money, but she’s nearly 17, son. If she only has six months left, do you want it do be in pain?” That was all it took. I knew what I had to do.
Two days later, mom and I took Suzie to the vet. Mom waited outside, while I was with my best friend, my sister. It seemed fitting.
They say the drugs are quick and painless. Perhaps they are supposed to be, but the person who put the needle into Suzie hurt her, and she yelped. That is a sound I remember, even now.
It was quick, after that. She just lay there, not breathing. I can’t express in words just how much that hurt to see her there, helpless. After so many years together, she would no longer be a part of my life.
It was a good two weeks before I was able to sleep in my room again. I kept breaking down into tears every time I would step foot in there. It was hard.
The pain has subsided. I keep her ashes in a bookshelf in my office. Every year on her birthday, I go in there and tell her how much I miss her, and how much I think she would like my family.
People who have had pets know the love that they bring. They are loyal friends, protectors, and often become part of the family. They are trusting of you, and if you trust them, there is a bond created that nothing can break.