This Thanksgiving season marks the one-year passing of one of my oldest friends in the world, my dog Duchess. We got her as a puppy when I was 12 years old. She came with me when I moved out of the house for college, and stayed with me throughout 3 state-to-state moves. When she passed, I had her for over half of my life.
Duchess started out as a family pet, but she became my dog. I couldn’t walk from one room to the next without her following at my heels. When her arthritis kept her from climbing stairs, she would follow me to the bottom step, lay down, and wait patiently for my descent. She went on 4-mile runs with me until she was 12 years old. When she began losing her hearing, I only needed to stretch my hand out to her and she knew that meant, “come.”
I’ll never forget as she grew older, dreading the day I knew would inevitably come. If I thought about it too much, I would even begin to cry. She would just stare at me, then come over and lick my hand. I could sense that it would soon be her time because she began sleeping nearly all day and all night. I dreaded to disturb her sleep, so I would tip toe around her because I knew if she heard me go into another room, she would struggle to her feet and follow me. And I just wanted her to rest.
It was on a day much like today when I discovered her in the living room, panting uncontrollably and in a trance. I knew this was the moment I had always dreaded, but I couldn’t give up. Eddie and I frantically rushed her to the animal emergency room and on the way, she died in my lap. I kept my hand over her rib cage and felt it slowly rise and fall. “Hurry Eddie, please!” I pleaded. Her breathing got slower and slower until I felt her heart beat for the last time.
So today, I’m thinking about my sweet little Duch and giving thanks for the 14 years I had her with me. My faithful old friend. I picture her running across a field, with the strength and energy she had when she was a puppy, chasing squirrels and barking at the wind. I truly hope that old movie is right and “All Dogs go to Heaven,” because I miss her so very much and I hope I see her again.