Dear Atticus

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Dear Atticus,

We have to say goodbye to you and that goodbye is going to be painfully real in about 24 hours. 16 months ago you were diagnosed with diabetes and we, along with your veterinarian, have done everything we can to regulate your blood sugar and keep you healthy. You almost died last summer when your glucose went too low. In the fall, you went to high and Dr. Earley brought you back from that as well. He said you are the most difficult case of diabetes in a pet he has seen. At this point, you are insulin resistant and we can’t stabilize you anymore. You are very sick. Our happy pug left us months ago and we’ve been hanging on with you, hoping things would improve. We are past that point and together with your veterinarian we made an appointment to euthanize you and that appointment is tomorrow.

My eyes well up typing those words. Euthanize is an awful word but I refuse to say that we are putting you to sleep. You aren’t going to sleep. You already sleep 23 hours a day at this point. We are releasing you from a body that failed you long ago. We are going to take on the pain of watching you snort your last pug breath so that the pain will leave your body. No more tests, no more pricks on your paws, no more shots, no more all day vet visits. That stuff isn’t for you at this point. It would only help us feel better but it isn’t about us anymore. You don’t understand why you feel crappy and are tired all the time. You’ve aged at an incredible rate and your eyes are clouded over with cataracts. The state you are in isn’t fair to you anymore.

Tonight when I go to sleep, I will fall asleep to the sounds of your pug snores for the last time. The thought of that makes me nauseous and my eyes burn. You’re my furry white noise machine and the room will be eerily quiet without you. Tomorrow your dad will take you on your last morning walk, something he has done almost everyday for the last nine and a half years. I’m not sure what he’s going to do. It will probably take awhile for him to quit walking to the door to grab your leash.

The details of life after you are gone are stressing me out more than they should. What do we do with your bed, your bowls? How many times will we vacuum before your fur is no longer with us? I’m pretty sure your dad’s black jacket will never be fur free and I am completely sure he is ok with that. You will be gone but you are woven into our home and our family just as your fur is woven into that jacket.

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Elliott is young enough that he might not remember you when he is older but for now, he doesn’t want you to go. He said you can’t go to Heaven because you are part of the family. We’ve been reading books about pets dying and talking about the fact that you are going to Heaven and you can never come back. You are teaching him about life and death and I promise you that we are not taking this lesson lightly. We won’t lie and tell him you went to live somewhere else or that you’re sleeping. We will tell him you died. We will tell him your body quit working and the veterinarian couldn’t fix you. Doctors can’t always fix us and we all die. We couldn’t fix you. It was your time to die.

I don’t regret the months of vet visits, the thousands of dollars spent, the insulin shots, the prescription dog food or even the heartbreak that is now taking my breath away. You have taught us about caring for the sick and the weak. You have walked us down the path of illness that doesn’t always end well. We will have to walk this path again someday as everyone we know and love will die eventually. Your death won’t make losing a parent, friend or sibling any easier but we will have the experience from you to equip us as we begin that painful journey.

Thank you for being a part of our family for nine and a half beautiful years. You went through law school with us. You were part of your dad’s marriage proposal to me. I will never forget that ring tied around your fat pug neck with a white ribbon. You were both so sweet standing there in front of me in that moment. You studied for 2 bar exams with us. You moved with us from Florida to North Carolina. From North Carolina to Northern Virginia. From Northern Virginia to Alabama. Everywhere you lived, you were beloved by all who met you. You made so many friends, I can’t even name them all. You welcomed Elliott home when he came into our lives. You were his first dog and he was your kid. Before Elliott could even talk, if you asked him what a doggy says, he would pant loudly just like you. That’s what his doggy said! He meowed like Dean and panted like you before he talked at all. Atticus, you loved us in your own crazy pug way and your absence will leave a little pug shaped hole in our hearts.

I am sorry that we couldn’t heal you. You were never going to live forever but we feel a little cheated with only nine and a half years of you. We’ve been reading a book called “The Heaven of Animals” by Nancy Tillman and this beautiful sentiment at the end of the book is a hope that I will hold on to. “You’ll grow older; I will, too. That’s what people always do. But when you meet your friends again, they’ll see you as they saw you then. And you’ll find they always knew how much they were loved and how much they loved you.”

So let me soak in your sweet and stinky smell a little longer. I will sleep to the sounds of your snores one more time. Walk a little slower with your dad in the morning so he can remember every step. Long after you are gone, I’ll find you in my dreams. I will find you the way I want to remember you. Full of energy, tail curled up like a cinnamon bun, panting and snorting loudly. I will see you cock your head to the side when I ask you a question and giggle at the way you balance yourself on the arm of the couch. Your belly will soak up the sun as you stretch and roll in the green grass and my heart will be happy.

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