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Such a Good Dog

Snap was our pride and joy dog.

A considered companion, a confidant with great listening skills, a cherished family member. Even when she turned eleven in human years Snap remained very much

a puppy in size and energy. As loving as she was fearless.

Snap wanted to be close with us. As close as she could get. And now she is gone. She left us too fast. Too soon. Way too soon.

Not so long ago she was busy chasing chickens in the barnyard when she suddenly collapsed. We wanted her to get up. Wanted her to be just resting, catching her breath.

The veterinarian said her heart was three times larger than normal. That rang true since her love for us was outsized. Now it was restraining her breathing more and more every day.

The vet gave us palliative medicine for her, but little sense of how long Snap would last. Of course, when Snap wasn’t gasping for air, she still thought she was the same vibrant “pleaser” and would run across the porch into the house, only to trigger another episode of hacking, wheezing and choking.

Sometimes life is puzzling making us wonder why things turn out the way they do.

Why Snap? Not fair. Snap didn’t qualify for misfortune. She deserved better. It is only air, plenty to go around.

Twice more she collapsed. The last time, on the living room rug, she lay on all fours with her head looking forward. I knelt down to her level and touched her lightly. Her eyes slowly opened, and her short tail swept back and forth from her happiness to see me. She was too weak to get to her feet. So right there on the floor we connected. Rather she did. She touched my soul.

As her condition worsened we filled up our anxiety basket with panic and resignation; the bread of apprehension. She was going. We knew it. She probably did too.

The night of her passing, unexpectedly, on his Daily Show, Jon Stewart delivered a “hear a pin drop” goodbye to his dog, Dipper, who had died after twelve years of joy in their family.

“Dipper passed away yesterday,” he said. “He was ready. He was tired. But I wasn’t.”

No, neither were we.

If a dog you love has ever been in your life, you don’t need to sit next to us while we thumb through the scrapbook of Snap’s constant deliveries of joy. We all have dog aficionado tales about the joy of bringing home a puppy; or the times your pet knew you were sick or sad and leaned into you, looked at you with those eyes, and knew exactly how to make you feel a little better. Paw on our hearts.

Most of all, you don’t need to review our list of the twenty best things about Snap (closer to fifty). You have your own list, make sure it is absolute and lengthy but in no particular order, since ranking things spoils the singular power of each one.

Near the end, we had to pick Snap up off the bed or couch, and constantly ask her to slow down to prevent another episode. We were being overly careful with her. But the air ran out.

When we were at the dog hospital spending our final moments with Snap, the vet folks said when she stopped breathing, “she’s in a better place.”

Could be. But I couldn’t help wondering, if we are certain we are going to a better place, why do we cling on to life even when it is so physically painful? To be present I guess. The promise of tomorrow. The assurance of being together. The fear of loss.

But she’s gone and not around. The house is empty. The yard is quiet. I suspect even the chickens miss her.

Snap could barely breathe at the end, taking in short gulps of air with her head up trying to clear her air passage. Head high, she never quit. Never quit loving. Never quit trying to please us. Never quit wanting us to touch her and hold her.

She never resigned, battling for air. Snap never, ever quit. Merely she just took one last breath.

As Stewart said: “My wish for you is one day you find that dog, that one dog that is just the best.”

We did.

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