Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Good Boy Earl

Earl and his fur siblings Thatcher and Sawyer. 2014

Two weeks and two days ago, I laid down on the living room floor to spoon our big dog Earl. I thought it would be the last night I'd get to cuddle with him. 

Earl, 7 weeks old. 2001

When I'd gotten home from work that night, Earl could barely walk up to greet me. I manged to scooch him outside to go potty, but he could barely lift his hind legs off the ground. Since he turned 13 in January, his health had been deteriorating. We knew it was time to prepare for and accept that Earl's time with us was drawing to an end.

Earl and me. 2002

Then, miraculously, Earl got better.

For two weeks and two days, Earl got up. He not only got up, he started jumping on the couch, something he hadn't been able to do for many months. He started obsessively licking our other dog Sawyer's ears like he used to when they were young. He was running around in the yard. It was crazy. I couldn't believe how quickly he healed.

Me, Earl, and Sawyer. 2004

This afternoon, Will and I met our friend Brent for lunch. I just got done telling him how great Earl was doing. Then we went home and within a few minutes, Earl had a seizure.

Good Boy Earl. 2008

It was horrible. He was lying on our bedroom floor, flopping around uncontrollably. After Earl settled down, Will picked him up gently and set him on top of our bed. We both laid side-by-side next to Earl, petting him and telling him how much we love him.

I looked up, into Will's eyes. I said, "I think it's about time."

He nodded and smiled at me tenderly.

Katie with her fur siblings Earl and Sawyer. 2008

It was about time for school to let out, so Will left to pick up Katie. I stayed with Earl, spooning him in our bed like I had two weeks and two days ago on the living room floor, whispering into his ear, "We love you so much, Early Bird. You're such a good boy. You're our Good Boy Earl." Over and over again.

Katie had given Earl some of her plastic play food. 2009

His panting slowed and he seemed calm. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, he tried to get up, but his back legs were useless. He struggled and flopped back down on his side, facing me.

Earl in our back yard. 2011

"What are you doing, silly boy? You don't need to go anywhere. Just lay here with me and let us take care of you. You've done such a good job, guarding the front door, taking care of our family all these years. Your job is done, sweet boy. You did such a good job, and now it's time for us to take care of you, buddy."

Earl isn't good at hiding his boredom when Katie reads to him. 2012

Will and Katie came home. Earl did not bark. He was really out of it. Will put a blanket in the back of our Kia Sportage and gently laid Earl upon it. All three of us drove him to the Great Plains SPCA. I had called them to make sure a vet could see him. They assured us they could get him right in.

Earl and his fur sibling Thatcher. 2013

When we got there they put a padded blanket on the floor in one of the rooms. Will carried Earl and laid him upon it. I took my spot, spooning Earl from the tile floor so he could have the cushion. Will and Katie took the chairs right in front of Earl. When not leaning over to pet him with their hands, they pet him with their feet.

We all kissed Earl on the face. We told him we love him. We said goodbye to Good Boy Earl.

Earl, exhausted after his 13th birthday party. I baked him a carrot cake. 2014

It was quick and painless. He died with his head resting on the crook of my left arm, my body at his side, my right arm stroking his silky fur.

Earl doing the pre-wash. 2014

Earl is the first dog I've had from puppyhood to death. He was seven weeks old when I adopted him from the shelter in St. Joseph, Missouri. He was thirteen years old when we left his breathless body on the floor of the SPCA in Merriam, Kansas. His ashes will be sprinked in their garden so new living things can sprout from them.

Earl and his fur sibling Thatcher. 2014

As the three of us walked back to the car, I felt a huge sense of relief. I didn't feel like we were leaving Earl behind. Just his body, which will make nutritious soil. It felt like Earl, the real Earl--who he is beyond his body--was hopping into the car with us. We carry him within us.

We rode home in silence, the windows rolled down so we could sniff the breeze in Earl's honor.

Earl would often run in his dreams. His eyes would be closed and he'd be lying on his side snoring. Then all of the sudden, he'd make these tiny, muffled barking noises and his legs would start running in place. I imagined he was dreaming of chasing Sawyer. That's the way I like to picture him now.

Earl and Sawyer running through the snow. Christmas 2009