by William Wright
Today we’re letting Madeline go. Why do my eyes fill and my throat clamp when I write that simple sentence? It’s not as if it’s a surprise. As inevitable as doing the taxes, it sat there and patiently waited for us to acknowledge its reality.
We all knew it was time, Madeline probably more than the rest of us. Every day she tells us again that it’s been a great ride, but now it’s time to pack up the cotton candy and go home.
She had a bad night. Her pain is getting worse and the medicines just aren’t helping anymore. More and more she turns away from us and stares into infinity, seeing her friends that she soon will rejoin.
Last night we held her and stroked her once-honey-brown fur, as much to comfort us as our dearest friend. She is patient with us and lets us say goodbye in our own way. But she’s getting impatient to go.
She was always the center of the show, but now she’s tired of the limelight. Her body, so sleek and responsive streaking across the golf course, now betrays her, the wheels falling off, the motor sputtering.
Sunlight washes strands of her fur clinging to my socks. I think, She made this. It’s part of her. But at the same time I know she doesn’t care anymore. She’s done with this coat and is ready to send it off to Goodwill.
So why has my hand dialed the vet twice this morning, only to snap the phone closed before the first ring? It’s a selfish gesture. She’s only here now because she knows we don’t want her to leave. And it’s true . We don’t want that, but we don’t want her to suffer either. There’s no path that doesn’t involve a broken heart.
I know that it will be a relief for us, especially for Madeline, when it’s over and she’s at rest. I just can’t turn my heart away from those hazel eyes and the dog that smiles when we come home.
So I’ll make the call and let her go. It is inescapable and ultimately for the good, like calling to schedule a root canal. I know I’ll fail her in the end and cry, not wanting her to leave. But she will know that she is surrounded by loving hands and hearts that celebrate her life and reluctantly say goodbye just until we meet again.
It is a final mystery and a lesson that Madeline is trying to teach us. It’s a shame that we are such poor pupils, caught up only in what we can see and feel. Madeline knows better. Maddie the Wonder Dog. Sleep well old friend. Bon voyage.