Saying Goodbye

In two days I will take my little dog to the vet. It will be her last trip, for she will be put to sleep at 2:30 in the afternoon. The decision to do this sits in my throat like a wad of cotton. Am I doing the right thing?

Bridgett Halleluiah Sunshine is as black as her name is bright, and as small as it is long. I found her where my daughter had hidden her under a bush as a surprise on Easter Sunday ten years ago. She hopped-wriggled into my arms, all licorice plush and curls, and snuggled into me like a miniature bear cub. It seemed as if she had been in my heart forever.

I named her Bridgett after my favorite doll – a black rubber Tiny Tears baby doll, which was all I had asked Santa for when I was seven. When I found her Christmas morning, I lifted her to me and inhaled her vanilla crayon smell and she was as alive to me as any real infant could be. Bridgett was my “baby” until I went to college, and then she was no more. She went to sleep in my memory until I found my puppy under the bush. There was no question about the name of the fluffy black Schnauzer who awakened my heart again and has kept it in hers ever since.

Bridgett Halleluiah bounced happily into her new home, pranced past her indignant seven-year old brother, Buddy, a gray Schnauzer, and leaped into his bowl of food. Buddy huffed and went under the table where he could eye the newcomer who was obviously of his kind, but acted too much like those rowdy small people who showed up more than he liked. Those grandchildren and Bridgett became his nemesis, which didn’t bother the puppy one bit.

Bridgett made herself at home, preferring her own pink bed than mine, Buddy’s food to hers, and a rollicking game of hide ‘n seek than cuddling with me. Comfortable in her color, size, and curls she maintained a certain persona of royalty throughout her life with us. A couple of years after Buddy passed, when Bridgett was three, we welcomed Sophie, a sweet silver gray Schnauzer to our family so the two sisters could play together and keep each other company in a dog sort of way. Truth was, I was afraid to be alone if anything happened to Bridgett.

So here I am, two days away from saying good-bye to a part of my soul that will never be replaced. Bridgett has not been doing well with diabetes, and now she is completely blind. She wags her nubby tail when she hears my voice, looks up and around, but sees nothing. If she bruised under her soft satin curls, she would be black and blue from all the things she has bumped into as she gropes her way about the home and yard she reigned over for so long.

Bridgett used to be quite a swimmer – an Esther Williams of Schnauzers. She fell into our pool when she had been with us only a week, so I immediately took her back into the water and taught her how to swim. What great fun she had paddling from one end of the pool to the other and then rolling in the mulch to dry herself off. Her favorite sport was diving in after the grandkids, swimming to them or a ball they’d thrown, and valiantly swimming back to the stairs. The pool is a danger to her now. We have pulled her out of the water several times after she had missed her step and blindly fell in, only to paddle frantically in circles trying to find her way out.

We took Bridgett on vacation to Florida with us last winter. By then the diabetes required two shots of insulin a day and she often had to be let out in the middle of the night to relieve herself.  We packed her bed, bowls, food, and medicine into our RV and welcomed her aboard for the ride. Without hesitation, Bridgett hopped up into my seat as if she belonged there – I was welcome to sit next to her if I wanted. Sometimes she enjoyed the ride lying on the couch back in the “cabin”, but usually she watched the scenery roll by from the front seat. We found her to be a pleasure to travel with the whole two months we were down south. She loved the folks and their dogs she met and became our ambassador for new friends in every campground. It was if she knew she was on vacation and she languished in all the extra attention she was given. Though, it was really our gratitude. Before our trip, we had prayed for travel mercies. God gave them to us through our little black dog.

I am so thankful we gave Bridgett that special time when the three of us were on vacation. Now when I lament her sickness, cry over her blindness, and grasp the end of her being with us forever, I am comforted by the memories of her energy and joy during our travels. This is a travel mercy of sorts, as well.

Bridgett is lying limp on the cool marble floor in our foyer, too weary to move or try to find another place. I have to guide her to her food bowl when it’s time to eat and put her nose in it when she gets there, then we call her to the door so she can make her way down the steps and to the yard. This is no way to live. Hers has been a good and comfortable life, but Bridgett is tired now. It’s time for her to go Home, and I’m fine with that.

Do I regret my decision to put my dog to sleep? No – I just wish I didn’t have to. It would be selfish to keep her alive just so I can see signs of life in her to give me hope. The hope I have now is that there really is a child in Heaven waiting for her, who will play hide ‘n seek with her whenever she wants. I hope that child will be black like she is. If so, and if Heaven has a pool, my Bridgett won’t even miss me. I’m fine with that, too.