When my dog, Ed, was a newborn pup, Elizabeth was staying with me. This cemented two things: 1) Ed forever adored 21 year old girls, and 2) to Ed, Elizabeth was Mom forevermore. They don't get to see one another often anymore, but when they do, Ed goes positively batshit.
When things looked so bleak recently, I sent Elizabeth a message that I was afraid Ed's end might be very near, and would she like to say goodbye? Ed bounced back, of course, and the goodbye never happened. But given Ed's prognosis—"horrendous" spinal arthritis that will cripple her in months, not years—I resolved to take Ed to see Elizabeth the next time we got together.
The sheer sadness of it all struck me as I was bathing Ed Sunday night, trying to make her pretty for her mom. It walloped me again when I was brushing her Monday morning. It was impossible not to think of the scene in Terms of Endearment where a dying Debra Winger, about to say goodbye to her kids, pauses to put on makeup. If you gotta check out, check out pretty, I guess.
Elizabeth and I chatted a while, but inevitably it was time for the main event. Elizabeth sighed and pulled some tissues out of her pocket. "Just a sec. I'm gonna go get some more," she said and disappeared.
The reunion was complete pandemonium, as always. Ed climbed all over Elizabeth, unable to get close enough even while standing on her lap and tunneling her face into Elizabeth's abdomen. Elizabeth held it together, which is more than Ed and I can say. Ed trembled with...joy, I guess. She couldn't stop shaking, a behavior I'd never seen before. Even her teeth were chattering. She was overwhelmed with joy, but the joy had a sad desperation to it. As I drove home, I wondered if this was like when I was a kid and hurt myself—how I so desperately needed Mom more than all the other people on Earth combined.
Curled up on the back seat, Ed stared into space and whimpered softly the whole way to the ferry.