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Hey, Mac.

It’s been a year since you left us.  Since I held your head in my lap and stroked your fur, whispering, “Good boy, Mac. You’re such a good dog.  Such a good boy.  We love you, boy.  Good bye.  Thank you Mac, you good, good dog.  Thank you.” A year since the vet released you from the cancer that was destroying your beautiful body.

Close up of Mac
I wanted to write about you then.  You deserved it.  But the pain was too much and the tears were too many.  The tears still come and the pain is still great, but I’m used to it now.  Grief doesn’t feel like a stranger anymore.  It’s just another part of the story about us.  I’ve realized that no amount of time is going to make us miss you any less; time is just going to help us get used to it.  That is all.

We met you when you were six weeks old.  You were the oversized puppy in a litter of two.  You looked like a giant, fluff-covered ball of pure butter as you scampered after your tiny sister. Two weeks later we brought you home, snuggled in the arms of the adoring child who would become Your Boy.  

Mac as a puppy
It was a pretty long drive for a baby and you got a bit carsick.  Riding in cars never was your favorite activity.  Most trips with you involved an elaborate effort to cover the seat and floor where you would sit because you almost always barfed before we reached our destination.

Barfing.  The camping trip to Silver Falls will probably live in our family history forever.  After dosing you with Dramamine and packing every conceivable camping necessity in the car, I hoisted you onto the backseat next to Your Boy and we took off.  Most of the drive is straight and flat, but the last 15-20 miles is curvy country road.  Slow driving to navigate the twists and turns, up and down the gentle hills edging the northern Willamette Valley.  Glancing in the rearview mirror, I saw you getting “The Look” on your face.  Eyebrows up.  Eyes focused just at the edge of your nose.  Teeth clamped together.  Drool beginning to leak out of your mouth.

I returned my vision to the twisty, narrow road just as Your Boy exclaimed, “Oh YUCK!  Mac just threw up a SNAKE!”

“What?! A snake?  What are you talking about? How did he eat a snake?” I demanded, unable to take my eyes off the road to look back.

“It’s not a snake,” mr. koosah said. “It’s a SOCK!”

“Eeeew, GROSS Mac!” Your Boy said. “You ate one of my socks and barfed it out!!  Yuck…OH YUUUUCK!  He just barfed another one!!!  OH GOD!! He’s eating it again!”

“DON’T LET HIM!!” I yelled from the front seat and merciful heaven, I found a place to pull over at that moment.

Leaping out of the minivan, I yanked open the sliding door and hustled you out.  Quickly, I cleaned up the mess with the roll of paper towels I keep in the car for emergencies and bagged it up.  You looked much happier and relieved when I put you back in the car.  I felt bad that you had to sit on a wet spot, but I lost that compassion when I got back in the car and realized we still had at least twenty more minutes of being trapped in the van with the suffocating odor of dogbarf.  That van only had two windows that opened!

We lived through that and many other incidents. I’ve never had a dog that was so fond of eating strange things before.  Coincidentally, I’ve never induced vomiting in any other pet so many times, either.  We still have the big bottle of hydrogen peroxide and the vet’s instructions for dosing in the cupboard.  I noticed the other day that the bottle is getting buried further and further to the back as time goes on.  Just another clue that you are really gone and a little pinch of pain at the reality of it.

Those little pinches keep coming, Mac.  They don’t stab anymore and take my breath away, like they did at first.  Putting your ashes on the knick-knack shelf beside your collar was hard.  Giving away your food.  Bagging up the all the bottles of useless medicine that failed miserably to stop your death.  Each bottle of pills was a desperate grab at Hope, but now those hopes just rattle meaninglessly in a Ziploc bag.  The counter where they had been seems painfully naked without them. Those difficult, big events have all been done.  Now all that remains are the little reminders that arrive unexpectedly.  This Spring’s first lawn mowing brought a few tears the other day as I realized that no one would race through the short grass and track green-stained, grassy paws into the house.  Pinch.

It’s been a year and Your Boy still misses you, Mac.  He misses his “puppy-brother.”  Remember when he started calling you that?  More than anything, Your Boy’s grief breaks my heart.  Like everyone losing a dear love, he wishes he had spent more time with you.  Been “nicer” to you.  I try to tell him that everyone always feels this way, but these are hard lessons in grief and regret and he is still learning. He is learning that tears are the price we must pay for the powerful love our pets unconditionally give us.  It’s far, far sooner than I had hoped it would happen, dear Mac, but thank you for teaching Your Boy about grief.

Your Boy has been dreading this day, this anniversary, for a long time, now.  His Asperger’s doesn’t make it easy for him to let things go.  He is sure that something is wrong with this particular day and nothing good will ever happen on it.  He has been talking himself into a major setback for weeks now, as he hyper-focuses all over again on losing you.  We have been worried about Your Boy.

Did you know about this, Mac?  I can see your pawprints on recent events.  We’ve always said we will get another dog someday, but we didn’t want to do it right away.  We need to get used to you being gone before we can welcome a new dog.  It doesn’t seem right to just replace you before that happens.  It’s been lonely though.  Kitty-Kitty is a sweet cat, but he’s older and he’s, well, he’s a cat and he acts like a cat.  You know about that, don’t you, Mac?  We’re pretty sure that you sent Dante last May to distract Your Boy and keep him amused with his antics.  Dante, with his friendly personality and mischievous character, certainly has been enthusiastic about his role.

First photo of Dante
He’s helped Your Boy a lot, but like most cats, Dante insists on a relationship on his terms, at his convenience, and at his pleasure.  He doesn’t snuggle up next to Your Boy at night, or wake him up with crazy barking, like you did.  Dante’s too small to be the pillow Your Boy uses while watching TV, like your furry side was.  Dante likes Your Boy, but he doesn’t wait for him to return from school every day and race with him around the yard or nap next to wherever he is.  Dante doesn’t know that he is supposed to nip holes in the bottom hems of all of Your Boy’s shirts by grabbing hold with his teeth and following him everywhere he goes.

You know all this, don’t you, Mac?  That place in our hearts where you will live forever gives you a pretty good view of us and you know.  That’s why, when you knew this tough time was coming, you were ready to help Your Boy, again.  That’s why, after months of waiting, we got that email last Friday.

The email that said there were puppies to see.

Two litters.  Four pups and five.  Nine puppies.  Three are going to be “pet” puppies.  Too big or too little or too shy or too something to be show dogs, but PERFECT for a Boy needing a dog to be his “puppy brother.”

So, as today arrives, as this awful anniversary comes, and Your Boy is certain that March 26 can never be a good day, ever again, we can show him the photograph of the puppy that is waiting to come home.

New puppy 3/22/14
The puppy that will be old enough to leave his siblings the first weekend in April.  The same weekend Your Boy has his 11th birthday, his new puppy will come home and join our family. The puppy you sent to us, Mac.  Because you want Your Boy to know that not all tears are bad and hearts with love like yours in them can always hold more.

We will always love you, Mac.  And thank you, Mac.  You good, good dog.

Last photo of Mac
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