Because before Marley, there was Trixie.
I met Trixie on my second date with Bryan. She jumped on me. She slobbered. She would not hold still enough to pet. She was a spaz.
I can't say it was love at first sight. Or second. Or 45th. She was a giant pain in every way a dog can be: she peed all over the house. She refused to go outside if it was the tiniest bit rainy. She chewed on the woodwork on windows - down to the glass panes! She would eat anything, including a bar of baking chocolate, leading me to spend a ridiculous amount of money at Med Vet to have her stomach pumped, only to have her come trotting out to the waiting room, perky and happy, charcoal still around her muzzle, as if to say 'That was fun! Now what?" She also pulled a wrought iron railing off our porch - bolted into concrete - apparently weakened from the years of her lead tugging at it with all her might. I came out one night to no dog, no railing. The hell? I called her and called her, finding her in the neighbors yard, sheepishly pulling 50 pounds of wrought iron behind her. She seemed to have nine lives, and was insanely healthy. We joked that somewhere in our attic was a painting of a very old Trixie; that she had made a deal with the Devil to outlive us, if only to drive us crazy.
From the moment I moved in, I tried to train her, but to no avail. I became convinced she was just not that smart - and yet, she was loyal and sensitive to my needs. For the first several years I lived with her, she would follow me around the house, all day, licking the backs of my legs. She slept on the floor next to my side of the bed. And, when I was pregnant with Henry and in preterm labor, so tired and sick, she walked with me up the stairs, even though I could only take one step at a time. When I stopped, she stopped, looking at me patiently and waiting. What she lacked in, well, everything a dog is supposed to be, she made up for with her heart.
Sadly, Trixie began failing several months ago, with multiple ailments snowballing into a case of 'we can't fix her'. She lost more and more weight, became confused and would pace in circles around the house, or sleep so soundly I would have to make sure she was still breathing. I asked the vet 'should I bring her in for more bloodwork? Maybe we could try a different food?' And he just slowly shook his head. 'It's time.'
I didn't think it would be so hard. I thought 'this is Bryan's dog, I'm not really that attached'. And yet, I found myself crying off and on all day, second guessing our decision, thinking maybe we should wait... but in my heart, I knew I had to do it.
They laid a blanket on the floor, and we sat down with her. It took longer than I thought it would to get the process going - she fought it until the end, and all I could do was bury my face in her fur and cry. She finally fell asleep, and the drugs started to take effect. The vet told me to take all the time I needed, and I laid next to her on the floor and put my head on her chest. I listened to the thumping of her heart - that big heart of hers that kept us from throttling her all these years - as it became slower and slower, and finally stopped. It was so peaceful, so quiet, just me and her. I stayed a few more minutes, then went and got the vet. "I think she's gone". She came in and checked, and then we gently lifted her off the floor and onto the table. I whispered into her ear and told her good bye. Because that was all that was left to say.