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We had to put one of our dogs to sleep yesterday afternoon–Caramel, 11 years old, a companion to my husband since she was a puppy, my loyal companion for five years now. Her heart was giving out, her steps were becoming slow and unsteady and we were having to help her up the back stoop, and the last two days she didn’t want to eat. I was actually having to put the food in her mouth. We didn’t want her to suffer anymore so we took her in to the vet. We knew she was suffering, but it is such a difficult decision to make; it’s hard to know when the point of no return for an animal is, but I’m pretty confident that she passed it when she stopped wanting to eat. Still, it was hard knowing that we were choosing the moment when she died.

We were able to spend a few final hours with her in the afternoon before we took her to the vet’s office. She wanted to be outside, lying under her favorite tree. It was unusually warm yesterday and partly cloudy. Aside from a flock of horrible grackles cawing in the tree a few houses down, it was a peaceful afternoon.

We had a difficult time at the vet’s office and then when we were burying her in the backyard. I cried from the time we took into the room at the vet’s office til we were placing pavers over her grave. For some reason putting the pavers on made me feel calmer and more at peace. We spent a few dazed hours on the couch, my head aching from crying. Then we got a bottle of wine and toasted to her name, remembering every cute, funny, and embarrassing thing she had done over her life. We looked through all of the photos we have of her. That helped a little.

When I first met her, she was suspicious  I came over to my now-husband’s house for a dinner date. After dinner, we sat on the back stoop, not touching but close to it, and we looked up at the stars and played with his two dogs. Caramel wormed her way between us and put her chest and front paws on my husband’s lap, letting me know she was HBIC. I told her I knew she was there first, but she was wary the rest of the evening.

Eventually, we became good friends. She would come and put a paw on my knee if she ever saw me get upset. She would nudge me with her nose when she wanted me to pet her or to wake me up when she needed go out in the early morning. Twice she very proudly presented me with rabbits on the back stoop. Whenever I would take a shower or a bath, she’d push her way into the bathroom and lay down next to the tub until I was finished. Once my husband gave her a drink of Fat Tire and she started chasing around an invisible fly. When he would go out of town she would sleep right next to me. She made me feel safe with her big bark and her habit of patrolling the backyard.

Today the house feels empty, despite our two other dogs. We keep calling them “Caramel.” I keep looking up and expecting her to be there. It was difficult to come home from the drug store this morning (picking up some anti-inflammatory patches for back pain) and there were only two dogs to greet me. They are both good little dogs, but they are not Caramel.