I heat up his favorite dish in the microwave and put it down in front of him. A meal that used to bring him great joy now turns his head away in disinterest. I can feel myself becoming frustrated, yet desperate because he just won’t eat. I stare at his frail body trying to figure out what to do. His loose skin hangs from its bones since there is no longer any muscle or fat to give it shape. I look into his opaque eyes, which are clouded from his cataracts. They look sad. When I look at him, he turns his head away and pretends to stare off into the distance. I can’t help but wonder, does he resent me for not letting him die? His cancer has spread quickly over the past year and now he just waits, tiredly, for it to consume him…
To fully understand this story, let me bring you back to where it all began…
It was a warm August morning, only a few weeks before my new semester would begin. I had gone into the pet store that day in search of a rabbit with floppy ears. Funny enough, I had actually picked out its name before even deciding to get a new pet. As I walked towards the rabbit cages, near the back of the store, something had caught my eye. I stopped and stared at him as he stared back at me. Intrigued, I could tell that there was something quite extraordinary about him, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. Perhaps it was that he seemed like an old soul, much like myself. In a room full of chaos, he sat there with such a serious demeanor, quietly observing me with his big brown eyes. Whatever it was about him, I knew that I couldn’t walk away.
He was nearly the size of a small bunny, with mottled brown, black, and beige fur. He had subtle hints of white hidden on his chin and chest. His fur was so fluffy that it almost made him appear round. His tail was short, his ears were floppy, and he had a small button nose. He was absolutely perfect. It was at that moment that I realized … he was my Charlie.
To the average person, Charlie might have been an overpriced mutt, but to me, he was priceless. A true hidden gem. And he quickly became the greatest companion of all time.
Shortly proceeding that day, came some of the darkest and difficult times of my life. As I would sit on the floor, with my head buried in my arms in complete defeat, Charlie would nudge me with his cold, wet nose, as if to reassure me that it was all going to be okay and that I would never be alone.
And he was right. As we climbed our way out of that rut, I was never alone. His loyalty and companionship helped me through those difficult times and allowed it to strengthen and define me instead of breaking me. Charlie stayed patiently by my side as I rebuilt my confidence and rediscovered my lust for life.
In no time, we were hiking trails, conquering mountains, and even spending nights together camping underneath the stars. Heck, we even tried paddle-boarding together (although he wasn’t a big fan of that)! I didn’t have much, but I always had him and wherever I would go, he would always come along.
But eventually his body became older and he struggled to keep up. But this wouldn’t stop us from being together! I still carry him along on our adventures because I knew how much he hated to be left behind. Gradually, he became so weak that he was unable to even jump up to his favorite seat on the couch, but I would still pick up him and place him there because I knew how happy it made him.
But now his body is too weak and he is unable to eat. I can see that not even puréeing his food is enough anymore. Crushing his pain medication in his food is not enough anymore. Everything I try to do is no longer enough anymore.
That day in the pet store, twelve years ago, I had always felt like it was him who needed me. I saved him. But now looking back, I see clearly see that it was actually me who needed him. His love and companionship was a constant reminder of the beauty that still existed when all I could see was grey. However, he does need me now … he needs me to let go. As I hold his empty and tired body in my arms, I realize that if I truly love him, then I must say goodbye.
To feel the unconditional bond that is formed when a dog chooses you as his master is one of the greatest and purest gifts of life. Charlie, you loved without the fear of getting hurt. You were loyal without question. You gave without ever asking for anything in return. You listened without judging. And you kept every single secret, as promised.
I want to thank you for choosing me as your master, companion, and family. You have taught me about loyalty, friendship, and love. You have touched the lives of everyone who was privileged enough to meet you.
You are so much more than just a pet or a dog, you are my one and only Charlie. And I will always love you.