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My dog is dying. It feels good to say that. We knew something was wrong for a while, but we hoped it would go away.

My dog is dying. She taught my kids responsibility. They scoop her food til the dish overflows. They fight over who gets to hold the leash. They wrinkle their noses when I mention picking up poop. She’s been a part of their entire lives. Now, they take turns feeding her pain pills buried in scoops of peanut butter. One holds the spoon while another pets her back.

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My dog is dying. I cried about it, in secret. I said I needed something from the garage. In that hot, dark emptiness, I bawled. big, loud tears. When I came back inside, she was waiting for me.

My dog is dying. She still rushes to greet me at the door and bays if I don’t drop everything to scrunch her long ears and scratch the soft, droopy folds of her neck. She loves everyone — every dog, cat, kid or creature she meets, giving no thought to their desire to return that love. She once waggled right up to a raccoon, poking its head out of a sewer drain. I feared for the dog. I should’ve feared what that dog’s love would do to the raccoon.

My dog is dying. She’s a pain in the ass. She wakes me up at 3am, or 4, or both, to go out to pee. She stands there, in the cold darkness, staring into the void. I hop from foot to foot, trying to stay warm, whispering her name as loud as possible. Soon, I won’t have to.

My dog is dying. She would eat anything. Though only a foot tall, she once took an entire pizza off the stove, devouring it before anyone could stop her. She once trotted into the living room, proudly carrying the carcass of our thanksgiving turkey. The kids haven’t learned to be vigilant with cookies or sandwiches. She strolls by them like a pickpocket, inhaling snacks before they realize their hands are empty.

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My dog is dying. She was indestructible. On a road trip, she ate an entire pound of chocolate. We induced vomiting in a gas station parking lot. She got in the trash and ate a diabetic syringe. She passed it without complaint.

My dog is dying. She ran away once. Wandered away, really. It was right after our first baby, in a new house. My wife wailed with grief, her cries echoed through the alley. Our upstairs neighbor rode his bike up and down the streets, yelling her name. I drove for miles, back and forth, a sinking desperation growing in my gut. After midnight, we put old t-shirts and dog food outside, hoping our scent would bring her home. The next morning, there was no dog. I left for work early, printed off 150 posters with her picture. As the printer hummed, I received a call from the vet. She’d been dropped off the evening before, by one of our neighbors. She only made it two houses down before plopping into the grass and waiting for someone to find her. I still have those posters in my desk.

My dog is dying. I tear up when she slowly lopes to the back door to greet me.

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Today, she couldn’t stand up to greet me. I sobbed as she struggled to her feet, her legs slipping out from under her. The tumor has consumed her back leg. The vet told me I would know when it’s time.

I’m afraid to say, “I know.” But I know.

My dog is dying. She will teach my kids about death. Finding the words to explain to my three-year-old is hard.

“She’s hurting, but tomorrow we’ll take her to the doctor. She’ll give her medicine, and she won’t be hurting anymore.” I stumble to find the words. “But she can’t come home after that.” He cries, tells us he doesn’t want her to leave. He tells us he doesn’t want us to die, that he doesn’t want to grow old.

My dog is dying. She hates swimming, loves scaring goats, eating fresh eggs. She was at the birth of all our children. She loves patches of sun and throwing grapes into the air. She loves sticking her head out the window, sneezing as the wind goes up her snoot.

My dog is dying. There is so much I need to say; to preserve it, to keep the reality of her leaving from overwhelming the memories of her staying.

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My dog is dying. I carry her into the vet’s office.

My dog is dying. I don’t want her to be scared.

I’m scared. My wife is scared.

My dog is dying. She’s a good dog. We scrunch her long ears as she closes her eyes, scratching the soft, droopy folds of her neck.

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