Even the vet cried, which did not make it any easier. The driving rain and snow didn't help either, nor did the fact that Forte perked up as soon as we all gathered around him on the porch to put him down. But then he fell asleep so quickly, so quietly -- he was just exhausted. His big heart stopped before the injection was complete. He had tried too hard for too long to put on a good front for us. The bone cancer crippled him up terribly.
We (my husband, the vet and me) were all very brave, until he was actually gone and that's when everybody howled with grief. It was two nights ago, yet I am still having trouble focusing. I keep saying, "He was a just a dog," and "This is ridiculous" and "Of course he's in a better place." He lasted at least six months longer than he had a right to.
But I ache for Forte. I can't help it. I try to dull it, by remembering how he drove us crazy. He was needy, and so eager to please. He was wet just about all the time, which didn't stop him from climbing on the couch as soon as my back was turned. Last night was the first time in eight years (he arrived when he was four) that I didn't put chairs up on the cushions to barricade the place. It's funny, that we all still did it even after he couldn't pull himself up.
Next time we make cookies we won't have to cool them high on the shelf by the salad bowls to keep them from him (another habit he inspired). It was weird to brew my coffee this morning with so much room. Usually he is between me and the pot. I'd have to wedge the cupboard door open and reach in because he'd be leaning against it, long legs in the air, jabbing at me with his tail thumping. He had some body awareness issues.
In his youth, Forte never missed a chance to walk on the beach with friends, and every dog and human who went by really was his friend. He would trot himself back home after they reached their cars.
I have not walked the whole beach much in the last few months because it felt like a betrayal to leave Forte barking at the door. Instead, we would walk to the shore, and I'd throw his ball a few feet, and he'd hobble to it and hobble back, smiling.
We buried him on the beach I now think of as his, zipped inside his bed cover. I dropped his soggy tennis ball on top before we filled the grave.
Yesterday, bereft, I walked down to the beach with my twenty month old granddaughter. She kept looking around for the big black dog, but she doesn't know what dead means and I don't want her to. So I shrugged and said, "Forte's not home."
We made snowballs and I left one on his grave. It was so beautiful, with the thin layer of new snow and the blue sky, that we walked down to the shore, and there in the snow above the tide-line was a big heart, drawn with a stick, with "Forte" scratched inside. Dog and people prints were all around it.
I do still have one dog. Phoebe is an 11-year-old terrier mix, who tolerates us, in an old cat kind of way. She sits on Grandma Joanne's lap, but that's the only one. She sleeps on our bed, but if my feet accidentally touch her she snarls. My husband jokes that she'll live to be 20.
He is off deer hunting, so Phoebe and I are home alone. Maybe it was the cold -- it's pretty chilly upstairs -- but I don't think so. Last night, for the first time ever, she crawled under the covers and wedged herself behind my knees. She didn't bite me. She didn't even snap, which must be a kind of grace. As for Forte, I doubt he's resting in peace. I hope he's running on four good legs in paradise.