The Last Visit

Dearest Rachel –

Well, it’s over. Chompers survived through his final hydrotherapy session. For once (after several weeks of Erin’s urgings), I even remembered to bring treats for him, to reward him for getting there, for letting the girls push him around in the pool, and for enduring the indignities of being dried off afterwards, as well being put back in the car for the ride home.

I still don’t think he liked it.

I mean, you tell me.

This time, at least, he didn’t bark. But he did whimper throughout most of the time he was being pushed around in the water – and yes, that’s about all that really happened in there. I don’t think he’s kicked his legs voluntarily in there for the last three or four weeks. I wouldn’t say he’s been getting progressively worse, but I don’t think he’s been getting any better from it, either.

Besides, as Daniel pointed out once we got home and he continued to whimper, he seemed to be rather cold from the ordeal. I’ll admit, I never reckoned on whether the water was warm or cold. I’d assumed the place was heated back when I started taking him in January, and my glasses fogged up in the place. Maybe they’ve turned back (or even off) the heat as things warmed up outside. I don’t know how it works, and I confess, I never bothered to ask.

And now, I probably will never know.

As a final comment about the place, they have a couple of quotes hung up on the back wall. I’m sure you might have noticed, that first time you took him there:

Evidently, Roger Caras was a wildlife photographer, but I really can’t find any information anywhere on Ms. Seward save this quote of hers. I suppose it’s good enough; very few of us ever manage to have even a single line we say or write quoted and re-quoted throughout the length and breadth of the internet. If that’s all she’s known for, this line, well, maybe that’s quite sufficient.

I will say that with a fair amount of confidence that I have not, and will never, be so blessed. At best, I think Chompers tolerates me; at worst, it’s possible I scare him when I am well and truly frustrated with him. I know back when you were still here, we referred to each other in his presence as “Mistress” and “the friendbeast” (with a nod to the Oatmeal), but I don’t think he has really ever thought of me as that, and I suppose the animosity? indifference? is mutual.

I’m not a pet person. Someday, I will go into that, and the story of the one dog my family had during my childhood (well, high school years, but that’s still the tail end of childhood for all intents and purposes), but not today. Not at this hour.

And I imagine Chompers realizes that. We’re trying to make him as comfortable as we know how, but there isn’t the real love that there was when you were here for him. I don’t know if he senses your absence and grieves for you, or if he’s forgotten you over the length of your absence at this point – I think I read that dogs forget their masters after a certain length of time, but I forget the length the article specified. And maybe I’m wrong – maybe you made such an impression that he still misses you. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me.

It’s interesting that this is one of those few things in life when you know you’re saying goodbye to a place and to people for the last time. So often, you never really know – or even stop to consider – that this might be the last time you go there, or see them. I don’t know where I read or heard it, but it always breaks my heart that “one day, you will put your child down, and never pick them up again.” I know that day happened a long time ago, and I have no idea when that was, and it still tears me up. And of course, you have literally done everything on earth for the last time already. That will, of course, happen to me, and everyone on earth at some point. And that’s just so heartbreaking, and terrifying.

Incidentally, in looking up the article about the Oatmeal and the dog that inspired “My Dog, the Paradox,” it would seem that his dog, Rambo, passed away just yesterday. And I could see you weeping if I actually told you about this – weeping for a dog you never knew.

Because you loved these creatures, and wanted them to have their best life. I know.

I wish I knew if Chompers was still having his.

We’ll talk again later, honey. Right now, I’m going to get some rest – I think the old man has finally fallen asleep for the night.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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