Birthday Boy

Dear Ray,

My dearest Ray-how do I get through a day without you, much less try to get through this one, your first Rainbow Birthday? I thought you’d make it, I thought we’d make it to your tenth birthday, but as it turns out, none of the Sparkles litter did, as far as I know. A hard-luck litter for sure, but you, Chloe, and Dahey all knew great love in your homes, so maybe ….maybe…

I don’t know. I can’t ‘maybe’ my way through this.

I miss you.

I miss you.

I miss you. How can one be filled with something that isn’t something that doesn’t exist? I’m filled with the emptiness of your absence and the sadness just seeps out of me in ways that I don’t even realize until I’m startled by the realization that tears are rolling down my cheeks.

I often refer to you as the worst puppy I’ve ever met and I stand by that declaration. As a matter of fact, I clearly remember sitting defeated on the kitchen floor, crying because “Pit bulls can live up to seventeen years, and I can’t believe we’ll have to live like this for so long.” And now I’d give my eyeteeth for that time together cut nearly in half, but trainer after trainer, class after class, time after time, we figured it out together and you became my best boy connected to each other in ways I can neither properly fathom nor properly explain but connected we were.

The Gift and Theft of Time

I’ll always cherish that COVID kept me home for nearly two years. Two whole years filled with more hours at home with you and Julius that would have been spent in a car and an office. The view to my left was that of you boys watching me work or I’d glance over and to enjoy watching you nap. Your snoring was the most comforting sound I’ve ever heard and I fill that silence with anything I can now.

But I watched you and I saw the changes. I knew. Your rehab friends knew. Our time together, which for anyone who loves a dog, is never long enough was now on a countdown with an end too near and yet still unknown. But with all of the pain of knowing, and of seeing you physically shrinking away, I got the luxury of never taking that time for granted. I could now hug you every single time I passed by. I could kiss your head and whisper in your ear, “Mama loves you so much.” Every. Single. Time.

There were days when we worried it was the end, and I’d whisper to you to rally and try just for me. And you did. Every. Single. Time.

Until you couldn’t. Actually, you probably would have if I begged you yet again, but I knew that keeping you here was for me so on a bleak sad Friday I made the arrangements. I told you. There has never been a secret between us…except for maybe when I hid the nail clippers and clipped your nails while you slept. I told you, that in three days, you’ll leave this body and the pain behind. Trust Mama this last time because in two days, your struggle will be over. Trust me this last time, I’ll be with you every minute and at the end you’ll be whole again and you’ll watch over us as we have always watched over you.

Last Walk

That Tuesday morning, you didn’t want to go for a last walk, but wanted to get in the car, you walked right in the building and laid in my arms as you drifted off. Your kind friends at Rehab took such good care of us. I held you tight and loved you to the end and beyond. I was with you when you took your first breath and when you took your last and I will cherish the memory of every breath in between.

So, tomorrow I’ll do my best to get through the day. I’ll go through the motions and come out the other side as well as I can. Maybe Julius and I can do something together in your honor and he and I can continue trying to heal that Ray-Ray sized hole in our hearts.

Ray Lewis Lockhart

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