Yesterday was National Dog Day. I ran across the above preview of a new movie called A Dog's Purpose, and made the mistake of clicking on the link. There's no way I could sit through this film. Yes, yes...it's terribly heartwarming and in spots potentially hilarious. But one scene was just too painful to endure. It's the one where the kid is laying on the floor at the vet where he has to put his faithful dog to sleep. There's a scene that shows the beautiful dog's sweet eyes beginning to shut. When I watched it, I was immediately transported back to that bitterly cold Christmas Eve 17 years ago when It was me laying on that floor staring into the dying eyes of my first Golden Retreiver...Murphy. 17 years, and I still remember it like it happened yesterday.
Murph was 14 years old and on his last legs, but when we returned from Granny Till's Christmas Eve dinner that night and opened the garage door, I knew something was wrong when she didn't rise up from her bed in the corner to greet us. Since I had two young children in the car, I shuttled them past her on the way inside to shield their eyes from her condition. Once they were safely inside, I rushed back out into the garage and found him, back legs paralyzed laying in a pool of urine, but eyes bright with delight at seeing me. I was heart broken at the sight of my once mighty dog reduced to such a state. To add insult to injury, we were in the midst of a sleet storm, and it was 9:00 at night...on Christmas Eve. I dialed up our vet hoping against hope that he would be opened at such an unlikely hour. He was. I bundled Murphy up in a blanket and soon was on the floor of Gayton Animal Hospital saying goodbye to my beautiful dog. I held him tight while the injection began it's work. It was an excruciating experience.
Once I recovered, a new problem presented itself. Murphy was cremated, but I was not looking forward to explaining that to my children on Christmas morning. It was going to be horrible enough breaking the news of his death to them. I realized that I was going to have to come up with an alternative narrative. So, there I was, driving out to my parent's house in Montpelier, in a sleet storm, to prepare a fake burial site. We would all be gathering at their place on Christmas Day, so I thought we could have a little funeral service. But first I had to dig a grave and clear off the sleet from the place so it would look legit. What a night!
One of the things I remember the most about that Christmas morning was taking the kids out into the garage to tell them that Murphy had passed away in the night. Neither one of them cried. They were just silent and still. Then suddenly, either Patrick or Kaitlin...I can't remember which...walked over to the the garage door, where the windows were frosted over and wrote with their fingers...goodbye, Murphy. We love you.
Yeah, so I will not be going to see A Dog's Purpose, because I already know what a dog's purpose is...they exist to make us better people. They teach us how to love each other with abandon and without reservation. And when they leave us they break our hearts.