Minnie was a surprise.
I didn’t believe my mom at first when she told my brother and I that we were getting a dog. It was something I had hoped for, wished for, but never really believed it would happen. Secretly, my mom and my dad had been visiting the local SPCA shelter and already had the paperwork to prove that Minnie would be ours soon.
I was in fourth grade, my brother in fifth. I remember leaving school early, driving to the animal shelter to pick her up. She was beautiful. She sat on my mom’s lap as we drove home and immediately found her spot on a blanket laying on the floor the moment she walked into the door. In that moment, she stole all of our hearts and we would never be the same.
Over the next 11 years, Minnie was one of the best friends I’ve ever had. She slept in my bed every night, taking up as much space as she could. She would greet us at the door with something in her mouth, be it a shoe, a sock, or a receipt, anything laying by the door. She liked hugs and kisses after being away from us, but was always content to lay in her bed while we watched TV.
She was a good dog. We could walk around in a public park without a leash on her and she would stay by our side, no matter what. My dad trained her and he did an amazing job. We could let her outside in the front yard and she would never leave, only scratching at the door when she was done. She would sit by the door and stare us down when she had to go outside. Sometimes, it would get so uncomfortable that we would leave in the middle of watching TV to take her out.
She was easily frightened by loud noises and yelling. Dutch is the total opposite, looking at you disdainfully when there’s yelling. Minnie always thought the problems lie with her so she would slink down real low, tail behind her legs, offering her apologies when most times, she wasn’t the one at fault. It was the most pitiful thing.
In April of 2008, I was giving Minnie a hug and petting her when I noticed her throat felt like there were two lumps. I had my mom feel them and we set up a doctor’s appointment right away. The vet didn’t have good news. Shaking his head and tsk-ing, he let us know that Minnie had most likely developed lymphoma. At best, she had 2 years left and that’s if we pursued surgery and chemotherapy. He gave her a shot to “help with the pain” but I know in my heart, it was the wrong decision. Within a few hours, Minnie was different. Lethargic, unhappy. She wasn’t the same.
We took her to a specialist, who confirmed our fears. She had lymphoma. Chemotherapy could help, but it wouldn’t prolong her life for more than two years and there wasn’t any guarantee of that. So we made the tough decision to let her live out the rest of her days, until her quality of life diminished too far. Those next two weeks were the hardest of my life. It was so tough to see her go from a lively, fun dog who would greet us at the door full of energy, jump on the couch to cuddle while watching TV to a shell of the dog she was. She had a spot on the floor she only moved from to go outside. Every step she took was painful and every night, she would moan in pain. I don’t know how I could go through that again. I don’t know how it didn’t absolutely kill me from the inside with her.
It was June 8, 2008 when we decided we had to do what was best for her. We took Minnie to an emergency pet center to put her down. It was so difficult to hold her in my arms, a 25-pound sick dog, knowing this would be the last time I held her. The last time I looked into her furry face and saw my love reflected. When we went home, she would not be there for the first time in 11 years. I couldn’t be in the room when it happened. I left a split second before it happened. I hate myself for that. I hate that I left her. I hate that I couldn’t be there in those final seconds.
Minnie was an amazing dog. I feel blessed that she was my first dog and attached herself to my heart so solidly. I knew it would be difficult to replace her, but Dutch has done his part in restoring my heart. Still, Minnie will always be that first dog, the first one who taught me what love looks like.