Anyone that’s ever had to put a dog down understands the how heartbreaking, difficult and surreal the experience can be. One second, you’re stroking your dog’s head, wishing a long-time friend farewell while she’s licking your hand and staring up at you with those sad eyes, and the very next second, the lights go out in the eyes of your closest companion and her body goes limp, and you’re left holding the vessel of your best friend’s soul. It’s unlike any other experience, and even the strongest of the black hearts will crumple when you have to hand the body of the sweet, sweet creature that slept at the foot of your bed for years back to the veterinarian.
It’s a devastating experience, and powerful enough, in fact, to elicit an emotional reaction from the unflappable Sarah Silverman, who I don’t believe I’ve ever seen betray an emotion on the sad registry. Silverman had to say goodbye to Duck, her closest friend of 19 years this week.
Duck “Doug” Silverman came into my life about 14 years ago. He was picked up by the State running through South Central with no collar, tags or chip. Nobody claimed or adopted him so a no-kill shelter took him in. That’s where I found him — at that shelter, in Van Nuys. Since then we have slept most every night together (and many lazy afternoons.) When we first met, the vet approximated his age at 5½ so I’d say he was about 19 as of yesterday, September 3, 2013. He was a happy dog, though serene. And stoic. And he loved love.
Over the past few years he became blind, deaf, and arthritic. But with a great vet, good meds, and a first rate seeing-eye person named me, he truly seemed comfortable.
Recently, however, he stopped eating or drinking. He was skin and bones and so weak. I couldn’t figure out this hunger strike. Duck had never been political before. And then, over the weekend, I knew. It was time to let him go.
My boyfriend Kyle flew in late last night and took the day off from work to be with us. We laid in bed and massaged his tiny body, as we love to do - hearing his little “I’m in heaven” breaths.
The doctor came and Kyle, my sister, Laura and I laid on the bed. I held him close - in our usual spoon position and stroked him. I told him how loved he was, and thanked him for giving me such happiness and for his unwavering companionship and love. The doctor gave him a shot and he fell asleep, and then another that was basically an overdose of sleeping meds. I held him and kissed him and whispered to him well passed his passing. I picked him up and his body was limp - you don’t think about the head - it just falls. I held him so tight. And then finally, when his body lost its heat, and I could sense the doctor thinking about the imminent rush hour traffic, I handed him over.
My longest relationship.
My only experience of maternal love.
My constant companion.
My best friend.
If that doesn’t get you choked up, then you’d be great as an extra in The Walking Dead.