Hand resting on a barrel-chest, buried in fur, feeling the labored pounding of a large heart. Leaning in closer to smell the top of her head one more time, the perfect combination of puppies and hay. Listening painfully to the rapid panting, wishing it could stop. Terrified for it to stop.
Leaning in closer to whisper our love, but it was never a secret.
You're a good girl. You've never done anything wrong. We were so lucky to be your family. You're going to feel better soon. Mommy is right here. We love you, Sassy. We love you so much.
Placing our son's hand over Sassy's paw. Stroking those velvety ears again and again.
Feeling her body relax, and then the silence. The silence that would spread from the building into our car and into our home and come to rest beside my bed, along the kitchen floor, down the steps of the deck.
A whole lifetime of memories crowding in to squeeze my heart too hard. Watching her run on the beach, the purest joy I have ever witnessed. Turning out the lights to watch a movie, and hearing her grab a squeaky toy and start chorusing for attention. Carrying her like a baby through downtown Seattle. Watching her delicately sniffing each flower along our walk. Introducing her to snow, and watching the exhilaration of discovering what you were built for. Nights crowded into bed with her. Days spent in constant conversation to her. Every meal attended with eager eyes. Every cry attended by a warm face pressed to mine. Every door opening overseen by a happy greeter. Every interaction so ingrained into daily life that we feel thrown at every turn. Her name jumping to my lips, my stomach clenching to stop myself. Where is the body that leans against my legs? Where is the face that I wake up to, leaning over my side of the bed, sniffing good morning? Where is the happiness that roamed from room to room, from nap to nap?
Sassymuffin, for nine years we have been enamored with you. You were our panda bear, our clown, our sweet little girl. The most noble breed. We watched you watching a grasshopper, then curiously put your enormous paw on it. When you lifted your paw, he continued jumping away without a scratch. You were born gentle, you lived gentle, and you will wait gently for us now. Of that we are certain.
There has never been a better dog. We thank our Lord for creating you, for sending you to us, and even for the pain we are feeling now. It means you were real, and it means you changed our lives. It means that we will clearly remember every detail of you until you lean into us again, and we won't have to remember anymore.