God, he had a great face. So expressive. So attentive. Those beige eyebrows that he sometimes waggled, a la Groucho Marx. A big smile. Intelligent brown eyes that always seemed to look deep into me; he always seemed to know exactly what I was thinking, and he always seemed to understand every word I said. He watched our faces when we talked, like anyone taking part in a conversation does.
Even at the very end, when he lifted his head for the last time and looked at me through those cloudy cataracts before laying his head wearily back down, I felt that he knew what I was thinking. "You're wrong," his look said. "You think you're jumping the gun. But it's time. I'm ready, Sweetie. I'm tired."
And when it was all over and they had carried him away and I had stopped crying for a few minutes, I did believe that was true: it was time, and we had made the right call.
I'll spare you the details of the indignities of Boscoe's last days; it's enough to say that he had stopped eating, and Doug and I would be damned if we were going to allow him to starve to death before our eyes. On Friday he had two pieces of Swiss cheese for breakfast, and dinner was a couple of handfuls of rice and ground beef. This morning his breakfast was a fraction of a flour tortilla, with butter.
He turned down pizza, ground beef, deli turkey, spaghetti, boiled egg, milk bones and buttered toast, as well as any number of various kinds of dogfood.
Doug did the hard part: sending the e-mail to the vet, then talking to them on the phone to arrange a time. The wait was excruciating. She was supposed to come at 1:30, but her other appointments ran long, and it was snowing, and in the end the man from the crematorium showed up before she did and we had to tell him that he couldn't take Boscoe away because Boscoe was still alive. So he waited in the kitchen and the vet finally showed up around 3. She carried a bag of poison and needles, and she had a long girlish braid that fell over one shoulder.
For years and years and years--really up until last winter, I think, when he got so very sick, life-changingly so--whenever we came home from work, this was Boscoe's routine: He would leap up. He would look astounded--astounded!--that we had come back. He'd run in to see us and pause at the doorway, and then he'd turn around and race back out of the room. He'd dash here, there, all over the downstairs, until he found a puffy toy. He was absolutely desperate to find a puffy toy. And once he'd located one, he would trot back into the kitchen, the silly fleece toy sticking out of his big, smiling mouth, and then and only then would he welcome us home.
That was Boscoe, always bearing gifts, as if the gift of his presence wasn't enough.
And so when everything was over and the nice enough man from the crematorium was wrapping Boscoe up in a brown fleece blanket with a milkbone design, I got down on my hands and knees and retrieved a dusty puffy toy from underneath Doug's recliner. I tucked it in next to Boscoe. And then the man zipped up the bag. Oh, how I hate that man.
It's funny; you know how much work Boscoe has been this last year. Making his food, and carrying him in and out of the house, and righting him when he fell. Feeding him--first by holding him up with towel; later, offering handsful of food as he lay in his bed. The bed and the floor would be littered with rice or kibble or ground beef when we were done, and Riley, who had been sitting quietly and watching with saucer eyes, would zip in and hoover it up.
Boscoe had developed a certain odor in his last weeks--musky and earthy and unwashed, but not offensive.
I shall miss all of it. I shall miss the smell, so distinctively Boscoe. I shall miss arranging his damned pillows. Scooping up his bony back end, and giving him a little jog in my arms, to settle him. As I walked up the back stairs, carrying him into the house, I never once failed to press my lips against the black fur of his back and whisper how much I loved him.
All that work is done now, and what, oh, what, will I do with all of this time? And what will I do with all of this love?