October 1998 - November 2010
...A fellow-blogger's recent loss prompted me to write about my own. Newman.
My beautiful, sweet natured twelve-year old shih-tzu, and my best friend from the age of fourteen on.
I can still remember the day we brought him home. My mom, my sister and I drove to the breeder's home to look at two 4 month old puppies. One was a male and the other was a female. We went thinking that we wanted a female, and even had a name picked out for her...But when we got there, it was the male (the runt of his litter) who stole the show. He ran right up to us, while his sibling shied away. He licked our faces and was eager to play and show off. It was like he was yelling "pick me! pick me!"
And pick him we did. I have a theory that we don't necessarily choose our pets, so much as they choose us. We fell in love with that little dog, and we knew he was ours, the moment we met him. The only problem was that he didn't have a name. We hadn't thought of any male dog names, so my mom, my sister and I tossed ideas around the whole way home, while Emily and I took turns holding our new puppy. None of us could agree on a name that fit.
When we got home, my dad was lying on the couch watching Seinfeld, which was in its last season. My dad turned around and looked at the bright-eyed puppy wiggling in my sister's arms and said "Hello, Newman." in a very Jerry Seinfeld voice. The name stuck. Newman, or Newmie, or Noo-Noo, was
Newman and I grew up together. When I fell and had a scraped knee, he was already next to me. When I had a hard day at school, or when I had my first crush and first heartbreak, he'd lick the tears off my face before they could fall. We went for walks together every day. We played together. We shared ice cream cones. When I got my license, we went for rides in my care (Newman was the only passenger who never complained about my driving)
As I got older, and Newman got older, we had more quiet time. He'd sit beside me while I studied or read. When I was in my late teens and had surgery, got sick, he never left my bedside, not for a minute.
When I started working full time, I took to getting myself an iced coffee at night and sticking it in the fridge for the following morning. Newman loved those trips to the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru. No matter how old he got, he was still able to jump from the ground outside the driver's side and into the passenger seat. I'd order my large iced coffee and he'd sit patiently in the passenger seat...Until we got to the window. Then, he'd get excited and jump into my lap, wagging his tail and panting, waiting.
The girls at the drive-thru knew Newman, and they always had a few plain munchkins for him, which he took and gobbled up right away.
Whenever I got home, I'd hear his bark before I pulled into the driveway, see his face in the window as I walked up the side of the house, and got a big kiss the minute I opened the front door. He slept at the foot of my bed every night. His soft snoring was a comfort rather than an annoyance, his morning kisses always welcome no matter how bad his breath was. And he liked to sleep in on weekends, just like me.
Newman never failed to dress up for Halloween...
And he always remembered my birthday...
Newman had so much energy, we started calling him "Benjamin Button" because, aside from his graying fur, he didn't seem anywhere near his age.
Until he did. It was a quick decline. One night as he lay in my bed, I noticed that his breathing was labored. The next day, it was worse. The vet told us that it was really only a matter of time, and that his body was slowly shutting down, that it was up to us to decide when the time was right. It was up to me.
It seems like something like that should be a difficult decision. But it wasn't. When I came home from work that night, and he couldn't get up to greet me, I knew. I laid on the floor beside him and looked into his big, watery brown eyes, and went to pet him. He winced away from my touch. Then, I really knew.
My best friend was suffering. He was in pain. And like he'd helped ease my pain, so many times, I had to help ease his. I called my neighbor over for a second opinion, though at that point, I didn't really need one. But he did provide the reassurance I needed.
My mom arrived home and I told her that, yes, it was time. She started to cry and called the vet's office. They told us that They close at 7:30 (it was a little after 7 at the time) and my Mom thought we should wait and see if things improved. I'd kept my coat on and had already wrapped Newman in his favorite blanket. His breaths were ragged and his heart was racing. No. I told her. It couldn't wait until tomorrow.
We both knew what *it* was but didn't talk about it. My mom drove, and cried, and I held my dog, and tried to hold myself together. Newman had always been able to sense when I was hurting. I didn't want him to feel my distress. I whispered into his ear and rubbed his ears. My stomach was in knots as I tried desperately to soothe him as his labored breathing gave way to gasps. "It's okay. It's okay." I said, again and again. Even though it wasn't.
I let my Mom handle the paperwork and asked that I be alone with Newman. The vet, Dr. Lisa, came into the room, where I sat cross-legged on the tile floor, still holding tight to Newman. She asked me if I was ready and I said yes, we were. I knew I'd never really be ready. But this was as close as I was going to get. Dr. Lisa administered a sedative and left the room so that we could have some time alone together.
I took a breath to steady myself. For one awful moment I wanted to jump up with my dog in my arms, run after Dr. Lisa and tell her that I'd changed my mind, and beg her to save his life.
But I didn't.
To my enormous relief, the sedative worked almost immediately. Newman could breathe again. His fifteen pound body relaxed and felt lighter all of a sudden. He looked up at me and I looked down at him, and it was almost as though he was saying thank you.
I thanked Newman. I told him how much I loved him and how much I would miss him.
And I told him not to be afraid. That I would stay by his side, just like he had always done for me.
When Dr. Lisa came back with a veterinary assistant, she gently lifted him out of my arms. He was limp, like a little rag doll. I didn't watch what the vet was doing. She was explaining everything as she did it, step by step. I wasn't listening. I was too focused on Newman. We looked into each other's eyes as I repeated "I love you" like a mantra.
Dr. Lisa told me that his heart had stopped. I kissed his head and closed him eyes. I held his blanket tight against my body and walked out. I closed the door behind me. Walked to the car. And then, I fell apart.
I knew what to expect in the days and weeks that followed. But nothing could've prepared me for it.
The awful emptiness of a home without a dog in it. Not hearing his bark. Not having him underfoot in the kitchen. Not feeling him on the foot of my bed at night. I missed my friend more than I would've thought possible. I cried every single time I was in the car, on my way home, because I dreaded the fact that Newman wouldn't be waiting for me there.
I still miss him. All the time. But it's true what they say; Time does heal. I smile a lot more than I cry now. I smile fondly when I look at his picture.
About a week after Newman had passed, one of my friends sent me this poem that I keep next to a framed photo in my bedroom:
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....