My heart is breaking into a million pieces tonight.
Unless some improbable miracle happens, I'll be saying goodbye to my beloved Henry-Dog tomorrow. I'm crying so much that I can hardly see to type, but I need to ask for prayers and well-wishes for the courage to let him go.
He's about 15 years old now -- pretty old for a Retriever -- and it's been just about 11 months since the discovery that Henry has multiple cancers. Honestly, that he's here at all right now seems pretty miraculous; I fully expected to lose him last June. He's stayed comfortable (as far as I can tell ... ) these many months, with medications and a change in diet and love, lots of love. But I can tell that he must really be struggling with a new physical issue, and I just can't let him struggle any more, not on my account. My brother thinks that Henry's been putting a brave face on things, for some time now, out of his devotion to me; I suspect that's close to the truth.
I've cried off and on pretty much all day, sometimes with guilt and regret for all the times that I might have done more for Henry. But then I look at all of the adventures we've shared -- traveling all over the US and parts of Canada, camping, hiking, trail-walking, sharing campfires and beach walks and lazy evenings doing absolutely nothing -- and I think he's had a pretty remarkable life, and I know that my life with him in it has been pretty remarkable.
He helped mend the hole in Greg's heart after Maggie Muggins's death, and he helped to mend the hole in mine after Greg's death. Had it not been for Henry, I wouldn't even have been able to get out of bed some days. The necessity of caring for his needs was a gentle reminder that Life goes on.
The picture is an old one, from about 8 years ago, but the expression is the one I'll remember best. This is the face of devotion, of loyalty, of caring, of earnest dedication to the task of being the best protector-dog and adventure-buddy I could've ever imagined.