She died on a Wednesday.
It had been planned for a week.
The grave would be dug that morning, as we had to rent a jackhammer to break the crust of the frozen earth. The digging would be soft after that. The area chosen behind the garden already had soft, rich, dark soil.
She loved the garden, probably as much as I did. Sneaking in among the purple peas, their fat pods too tempting to not pluck and devour. The tiny tomatoes in jewel tones of ruby red, glittering gold and dusky blue could not be hidden from her. I would scold her for eating them and then laugh as she would drop her head momentarily and then look peek up at me to see if I was watching.
I could never be angry for long. I simply loved her too much.
She was on painkillers. We were warned that they were a temporary fix and would only allow her a few days of joy, as the strong medicine would hurt her internally. We agreed that the doctor would come out to us. Less stress that way, and we wanted her last day to be filled with love and comfort.
But a winter storm came. The roads would be treacherous. We had to make a decision. Would we take her in or would we wait a few more days. Could we prolong her leaving us just a little while longer?
The idea of waiting made me feel better. But I could see her sickness. I could see her struggling and she wouldn’t sleep. She knew something. I think.
On her last night, we cooked up her favourite treats. We played fetch for as long as she would play. She stood completely still for half an hour while I brushed her over and over and over, repeating that I loved her.
I tucked her in on our bed, as I had the past 13 years, the purple blanket surrounding her like a cocoon. I scratched her head and willed her to die in her sleep so that I wouldn’t have to bear any guilt of choosing when she was to die. But I wasn’t given that satisfaction.
The next morning she ate, let me brush her a bit more and I clipped on her bright green collar and invited her onto the passenger seat of the van. I snuggled her purple blanket around her and sniffed her black fur one last time. I told her she was a very good girl. That she did her job well, protecting us, loving us and keeping away the chipmunks and deer. I thanked her for being my best friend. I told her not to be scared. I told her that she wouldn’t miss us at all.
And I closed the door.
I went inside and I didn’t look back. I collected her chewed up dog toys, her old bone, her fuzzy bed, still slightly warm from her bony black body. I put them all into a large garbage bag and dropped it into the basement. I hung up her red sweater on a hook at the front door, where a bright green collar and pink leash would be added two hours later. I washed out her red water bowl and put it away. I took her blankets and washed them with bleach, vacuuming out the dryer afterwards as her fur always clogged the vents. I vacuumed the carpet in the kitchen where she always lay as I made meals.
I went outside and did some chores, the usual daily feeding of the chickens and egg collecting. As I returned to the front door I turned to call out for her to come in. But of course she wasn’t there.
In the afternoon I came down the stairs to let her outside, to go for our daily walk to the mailbox, but she wasn’t in the kitchen waiting for me, her tail thumping the floor.
At bedtime I locked up the house and went upstairs, and I turned to call her to invite her on the bed. But of course, I’d be going to bed alone.
The house is so empty.