They were all gathered near the kitchen when I returned home from an errand on Saturday morning. We all looked at each other with knowing eyes. It was almost time. The appointment was made for 1145H.
Luke was lying on his side at his favorite spot between the kitchen and the family room. The kids stroked him gently and whispered soothing words.
The back of the van had been prepared with his cushion and a blanket. Louie gently lifted Luke and carried him out to the car. We all trooped behind like obedient soldiers.
On the way to the Pet Clinic, we talked about how he was barely 10 lbs. when he first came home in the Fall of 1999. All the way from the kennel, he tried three times to sit on Louie’s lap as he drove home. We had all rushed home that day, excited to see our new puppy. He had been eager, friendly, and affectionate from the start, always angling to be petted and stroked. Always a part of the family.
Over the next 24 months or so, he grew more than ten times his size. We took him everywhere with us. Since we enjoyed hiking, we chose dog-friendly trails to explore with him. It was not until the summer of 2009, after a hefty Father’s day brunch, while we were on our family walk, that we began to notice Luke’s waning strength and endurance. After that incident, we were always careful when we took him for walks.
Everyone in the car was witness to Luke’s childhood, adolescence and eventual maturity, as he was witness to the growth of the four people in the back of the car, who chose to come for his last ride. Back then, Lara was 10. Mitch was 11. Marc was 12. And Matt was 5. Now, these kids have grown up.
When we arrived at the Pet Clinic, we were escorted to a small examination room. We were greeted by the staff and the veterinarian. They were all very accommodating and sensitive to our sadness.
First, there was the tranquilizer. Then, the intravenous medication was administered. It was all very compassionate and humane. And quick! The Vet listened to his chest. She looked at us and quietly said, “His heart has stopped.”
I don’t really know why it was that I really lost it for a few seconds there. I heard myself sobbing loudly and clinging to his head. Then I was gently pulled back by Louie, and I quickly pulled myself together.
It was over. We filed out of the room and out onto the sun. As we walked down the street, I saw the faces of everyone who had recently passed on. First, there was Vicki in January, Maj’s high school friend. Then there was Jay, Cynthia’s brother. Then Nanay, my mother-in-law in March, followed by dear dear friend, Vanna in April. In May, Dan followed with Uncle Tatong in June. With Luke’s passing, was my grief not just for him but for all these people?
We all came home, sad, tired, and somehow, hollow. As we walked into the house, we saw all the leashes we used when we walked Luke, hanging near the door. This was all we have left to show now. We would have wanted more time with him. Buy a few more days maybe. But we saw how difficult each day was becoming for him. How getting up and around was an ordeal. How disinterested he had become with his food or drink. We knew it was the compassionate choice to let him go in peace.
When I come out of our room, I still expect to see Luke come out to greet me. I wait for the sound of the back door opening so Louie can let him in for the night. I can still smell him in our kitchen, the porch, at the foot of our bedroom steps. I still wait for the gate to close before I drive away, so Luke will not sneak out and wander into the neighbor’s yard. It will take a little longer to undo these routines from our day-to-day. 12 years worth of it.
Boy, do we miss him!