Michele Catalano
May 18 · 4 min read

Look at the stars, how they shine for you

That was playing on the radio as I drove to the animal hospital, on my way to say goodbye to my beloved dog, Lili Von Shtupp. I was overcome with emotion and burst out crying right there, at a red light right in front of my old high school.

Lili came to us in 2007. We had talked about getting a dog, and because Todd grew up with miniature schnauzers, we agreed that when the time came, that’s the breed we would get. But the time wasn’t right yet. Or was it?

A knock at the door, one of my daughter’s friends telling a tale of how she knew two teenage girls who adopted a dog and their mother wouldn’t let them keep her. They were desperate to find a good home for the dog.

It was a miniature schnauzer. Perhaps the time was right, after all.

So we took in the pup, bestowed upon her a very silly name, and proceeded to spend 12 years loving her and being loved by her.

Lili was not a very good dog at first. She ate anything she could get her teeth on. Three books, two magazines, two credit card and fifty dollar bill all destroyed at her hands. She made a mess of the house, dragging socks and bras out of the bedroom, scattering them around the living room as if they were conquests. But she was lively and eager and fun to be around, so we excused the mess and went about the business of loving her.

She loved long walks around the block, especially when Kitty (RIP) followed along with us. She meandered rather than walked, stopped to smell every little thing, paused to greet neighbors, took her time getting back home. She loved the backyard at the old house, where she’d putter around the grass for a bit before she got tired and just plopped herself in a pile of mulch. When my sister lived upstairs from us, she’d climb up the stairs in the morning and scratch at the door until my sister let her in for a morning visit. She liked watching tv, peanut butter, bananas, head scritches and lounging in the sun.

We went through a lot with Lili. She gave us quite a few scares and went through two surgeries earlier in her life. Each time we fretted about losing her, but she came through. She was a tough girl.

This time just proved to be too much. She had fluid building up around her lungs. The cells in the fluid were cancerous. They drained the fluid, but it just built back up again. She was 12. It was too much.

Death comes for us all. And while we’re waiting for death to grab us, we experience the death of others. Loved relatives, loved pets. To take in a pet is to assure yourself of heartbreak at some time. But we do it because the pure joy they bring us is a necessary component to life. Dogs, cats, they have the pleasure of knowing nothing of the cruel, crazy world around them. They just want to love you and be loved and that love is pure and perfect. We accept that it won’t be forever and we love fiercely and completely because we know our time with our pets is limited. But oh, the things they do for you. To be greeted when you come home from work as if you’re the only thing that matters. To snuggle up on the couch and hear that contented sigh from them. Their complete trust in you, their faith that you will always do them right.

And then there comes a time when doing right means doing the hard thing. As I sat there and watched the vet do what she had to do to end my dog’s suffering, I had a pang of regret, of guilt. Is this what I’m supposed to be doing? I wanted to hang on to her a moment longer. I told her I’m sorry. I whispered it in her ear. I told her I love her. And then she was gone.

My husband was there, and my two kids. We each cried, we hugged, we said goodbye to our beautiful, amazing girl. I pet her lifeless body for what seemed like a long time, but wasn’t really long enough. We had 12 years together. Was that enough? No, it never is. It’s never enough.

The groomers and the vet always remarked about how good she was, how complacent. She’d let them do anything to her and she never complained, never snapped or barked. She was so eager to please. She was a joy to be around, just always happy and content. I wish we had longer. I wish I had more nights to feel her snuggle up close to me at 3am. I wish we had more walks left. But we don’t, she is gone and I am heartbroken. I want to believe that somewhere out there she is running, she is greeting people, she is chewing up 50 dollar bills to her heart’s delight. She was my shining light, and my world is slightly dimmed for having lost her, but it is filled with stars for having loved her.

Look at the stars, how they shine for you

Michele Catalano

Written by

Writer, civil servant, dog lover

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade