There have been very few times in life where I have been inconsolable. The end of Antwone Fisher. When my grandmother died. And when my first girlfriend broke up with me. The last instance was the ugliest as I spent most of my time on my knees in my bedroom singing either “End of the Road” or “Down on Bended Knee” by Boyz II Men while wailing into my sheets, thinking love had abandoned me forever at 13-years-old.
However, I have never cried as much or as loud as I did when we had our second dog Mercedes euthanized. I remember being in the room petting her as she took her last breaths and passed. Destroyed, I went outside and smoked a cigarette. I was crying so hard my tears flooded the cherry on my smoke and put it out. It just felt too much like we were giving up on her. And she deserved better with the type of loyalty she had always shown us.
One of Mercedes favorite activities was rolling around in her own poop. It must have smelled like Chanel No. 9 to her because every time we let her out, she had a party in it. You could smell it as soon as she walked through the door. The stench of rotten peanuts and chocolate. And then you saw it: Brown chunks of poo knotted in her hair.
No matter how many times I yelled at her – for being the Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt of poop rolling – she never once got mad. Never pouted. She would just look up at me as to say: “Yeah, I know. That’s my bad on that one.” Through all the yelling and fussing, she always stuck in there with me, and I felt like I was shorting her on the same loyalty.
Then I thought about her last few days. The number of times I caught her staring off into space, not knowing where she was. Her constant soiling’s of the carpet. The step she had lost on her jog back in from using the bathroom. We really knew it was time when she turned down a hamburger from a fast-food joint up the road from our house. That was her way of letting us know.
Mercedes second favorite activity was walking. Whenever she heard the jingle of her leash, she would run to the door, ready to go. Her love for exploring actually bought me quite a few instances to enjoy a cigarette before my parents knew I smoked. It was a win-win situation. She would get to go exploring, and I got a chance to pollute my lungs while exercising them at the same time – a walking contradiction. Towards the end, though, she no longer wanted to take a stroll. Each jingle of the leash brought nothing but an indifferent sigh and icy stare.
She did rally back the day we took her to be put down. It was almost like she knew it was her last walk. She seemed to skip down the street, tongue hanging out of her mouth and nose working overtime, taking in the sights and smells. While I normally discouraged her from going into people’s yards, I relented and let her enjoy the smell of flowers and poop one more time. I thought about telling my parents, but I knew it would give us all a false sense of hope. It was time to be loyal towards her. No more suffering for the Cedes.
Two days after her passing, my parents went to Richmond, Virginia, to see my brother and his wife, and I stayed at home. I came across Marley and Me flipping through the channels and like the fool I am, I watched it. Watching Marley hump a dog trainer into submission and drag a table down a Miami sidewalk provided some relief, but I kept thinking about the ending: Marley dies. I had had planned to turn it off before then, but like a train wreck, I couldn’t look away. As I watched Marley slip away with Owen Wilson at his side, I became inconsolable. It was the vet’s office all over again.
Once I came down, though, I realized something. Mercedes is playing in her poop, getting as dirty as she wants without anybody fussing at her. She is on an endless walk, getting into trouble, stirring stuff up with Lassie and Comet from Full House. After all, that’s what heaven is. Your favorite things on repeat. Rolling in your own poop. Taking an endless walk. Infinite re-runs of the Atlanta Braves’ 1995 World Series title. That thought alone helped me get over my guiltiness. While I will miss Mercedes every day, the thought of her not suffering anymore is all the confirmation I need to know we made the right decision.
Flash forward three years, and I’m in a relationship with an amazing woman. She manages to put up with my moodiness and took a chance on a 31-year-old man who still lives with his parents and had no job or prospect of one when we met. She had to have her dog euthanized around the same time as Mercedes and had started to get the urge to find another dog.
She called me one day last summer and asked if I would like to go out to the SPCA shelter to meet a rescue dog she had seen on Facebook. (See, social media can be used for other things than political rants). I agreed and we took the 30-minute drive out to the country. We passed a minimum-security prison on the way out, which gave me some bad juju.
“This might not be good,” I thought. “Meeting a dog right outside a prison. Was she going to have Thug Life tattooed on her belly? What was this dog doing a bid for?”
We arrived at the shelter and after a quick conversation with a chill, middle-aged couple, went out to the backyard and there she was: The Izzy. The Izzmeister. The Master Chef. Our new ride-or-die homie.
Those of us who have been alive long enough know there is no sure thing in life. However, from the moment we saw her, we knew she was ours. She warmed up to my girlfriend right away, but was shy of me at first – possibly freaked out by a Mountain Dew bottle I was holding in my hand. As I watched Izzy and my girlfriend hit it off, a wave of panic swept over me:
“Great. Now it’s going to be three girls against one boy. I’m screwed,” I thought. “Nobody’s ever going to be on my side again.”
Once again, though, my fears were put at ease by Izzy deciding to jump on my leg, looking for some love. From that moment, I was hooked. I was a sucker for Izzy.
We talked about our decision on the way home and before we hit the city limits, we had made up our minds. We were going to make Izzy a part of the family. It has been one of the best decisions we’ve made as a couple. She is one of the most loving, undemanding dogs I have ever met. All she requires is a little love. She does not even beg for food. Which I thought was a trait built into dogs like Justin Bieber’s need to be a douchebag.
My girlfriend has a saying: Rescue dog rescued me. And she’s right. No matter how much it makes me roll my eyes. Late last year, I thought I had landed a job as a sports reporter for my local newspaper. However, I found out right before I was supposed to start that the position had been frozen. I was devastated. My girlfriend had to work late the day I found out so I had promised her I would go over and let Izzy out and spend some time with her. As soon as I walked through the door of her apartment, Izzy was there to greet me with a jump on the leg and incessant licking. My pain was soothed. In that moment, I knew I had found my new Mercedes.
In the time we have had Izzy, there have been very days where she has not done something to surprise us or make us laugh. She has this one trick where she will grab one of her balls and toss it up in the air and try to catch it becoming a hybrid of Jan Zelezny – the Czech world record javelin throw holder – and Willie Mays. Then there is this awesome video right here:
As my girlfriend says: We did not rescue Izzy. She rescued us.
Rest easy Mercedes.