In just four hours the dog will take her final ride to the vet. She, of course, has no idea what's in store for her. Neither do the kids. It's something we grown-ups hold close to the vest, pausing to pet her gently from time to time and whisper, "Poor Tasha."
I thought I was ok with this but sitting here thinking of it, remembering her better days has me wiping the tears. In recent years she's gotten old and cranky. She's not typically playful or cuddly. That wasn't always the case.
The first time we talked about a future, our future together, we drew the same picture.
"I always wanted two kids," I said.
"Me too," he said, "And a dog."
"I'm sort of partial to huskies," I confided. "Not that I've had one yet."
"Me too," he agreed. "We could name her Tasha."
We were newly engaged - perhaps a week if not less - when Bruce called me at work. "I found her," he said simply.
It was the dog. He found an ad for 8 week old Siberian Husky pups. Did I want to leave a little early to go see them. "Not that we're buying one tonight, but let's go check it out."
We left the breeder with a 10 pound puppy in my arms who enjoyed chewing my ear the whole way home. It was cute that time. The next time, not so much. We brought her to the engagement party at my parent's house. I was going to Bruce's apartment after the party and would drive the dog back with me. Do you know how hard it is to safely drive down a 50 mph road with a puppy that refuses to stop biting you?
It was less than a mile from my parent's house when I pulled off the road and placed Tasha in the back seat, yet again. I wrapped her leash around the front eat leaving her with a short lead. She tried a few times to find a piece of me she could nibble on but gave up and finally napped on the floor of my cruddy Neon. We purchased a canine seat belt contraption.
Tasha loved to run. We'd take her to parks and to the beach. We'd find places for her to go off leash and just burst in full sprints. She, as you'd expect, loved snow. She'd bury her face in it and pop her head up to make sure we saw her. Her fur dressed with shimmering flakes and clumps of snow. We'd toss a snowball to her and she'd leap to catch it in her mouth. She'd shake her head a few times as if it were prey and then she'd settle down in the spot she'd hollowed out a bit and flattened - a nest - and eat her prize.
When Logan arrived she seemed to handle the transition well. She'd lay near his bassinet and listen for his cries. She'd stand next to us as we changed him - her neck extended toward him and her nose twitching. She really loved the introduction to solid foods.
By the time Megan arrived Tasha's health was starting to decline. Her thyroid was bad. Before they had a real diagnosis they had treatments for skin infections and ear infections. The pain went away and the weight slipped back to normal once she got on daily medication.
But that was short lived. The nose started. It's never been fully diagnosed but they believe there is a blockage. It started with sneezes - reverse sneezes the vet said - where she seems to struggle to get air in. It went to real sneezes where her clogged up nose gets unclogged and we all recoil in disgust with the stuff that she's clearing.
The ear infections came back. The thyroid treatment keeps her thyroid in check but it no longer helped prevent her ear troubles. We seemed to find her relief for shorter and shorter periods of time. The nose got worse. The skin infections returned. She was drinking all the time and running out nearly as often. The vet said it was most likely Cushings Disease but without extensive testing we'd not know for sure. The treatments were highly involved and extremely expensive. There was no real cure.
She was limping. She was occasionally losing her back-end when she hopped down the single step into the porch. She'd rise from sleep and gingerly put her back paws down, almost wincing. Her ears were off limits - no petting the head. It hurt her. She couldn't hear. It was time. We elected to skip the testing knowing that the treatments would have been something we'd have done if she weren't as old a dog as she is.
I remember now, as I see her lying nearby me half-asleep, those puppy days. I remember lying on our bed, bruce and I and the dog curled up between us asleep. I remember petting her head gently and thinking outloud, "I wonder where we'll be when she's 10. This breed averages 10 years old right?"
I remember the May just prior to Logan's birth. I was sitting on the couch with my swollen ankles up. The dog sat next to me licking my cheek on occasion. I was scratching her neck - wiggling my fingers into her thick fur that was shedding in handfuls at the sign of warm weather. "She's 6 now," I said almost more to myself than to Bruce. "Do you realize that if she lives an average life span, Logan will be 4 when we have to explain death to him? Wow. I'm not ready for this. I'm not ready to be Mom."
And now he is almost 4. And she, she would have been a full 10 years old next week. And I'm still not ready for this.