This is Gemma. And she’s ours.
Four months ago, I was looking at the Beast, plotting how I could keep him with me for as long as possible. (Raw food? Supplements? Swimming lesson?) I hate discussing the lifespan of a French Mastiff—for some reason, well-meaning people insist on asking me (please, stop)—but I was hoping for a good twelve years, if forever is not an option. I could even settle for ten, maybe, I told myself.
Two and a half months ago, I was hoping for one more day with our Beast. When the vet handed me a month’s-worth of medication, I was ecstatic at her optimism. Still, every moment felt fraught. I tried to notice my energy—positive or negative—and decided that the Beast needed calm. I don’t do calm, I told myself. But the Beast needs me to be, I replied. So I started meditating. Affirmation tapes were my daily thing. Snark gave way to sincerity and I worried I wasn’t funny anymore. Yet, between moving woes, health crises, plus a few unexpected bumps in the road, finding peace became more important than being funny, though I’m still trying to reconcile the two.
Seven weeks ago, I prayed the Beast could hold out for another five weeks of walking up and down four flights of stairs until our new place—a first floor in New Jersey with a back patio—was ready. By then, the cardiologist had taught me to listen to his heart rate with my new drugstore stethoscope. We started saying our goodbyes to longtime neighbors, calling it “The Beast’s Farewell Tour,” letting people know that we were moving, that it would be good for everyone’s hearts. Some shook their heads as we announced that we were moving for our dog. Then we said “fifth floor walkup,” and their heads nodded instead. [Side note: No one gives you a medal for living in a fifth floor walkup.]
Two weeks ago, the Beast stayed with the 24-hour vet, who monitored his heart, while the movers hauled all our possessions to our new place. Simply put, we have a lot of shit. Anyone who passed the truck said, “You guys sure have a lot of stuff!”, widening their eyes for emphasis. Even the movers felt the need to chime in. The next person to comment on my crap, I decided, would get hit on the head with the toaster—if only I could ever remember in which box I packed it. After the longest day in recent memory, we brought the Beast—who’d had a spa day compared to us—to our new home, which now looked like an episode of A&E’s Box Hoarders. He sniffed around for all of five minutes, then fell asleep without a care, only to wake up to the sound of chirping birds the next day.
This morning, the Beast turns FIVE! And my heart is so happy, especially after worrying if this day would ever come. I hope his heart is happy too—a staff of amazing veterinarians and a cocktail of medications have done their best to see to it that it is. While I use to fear his aging, wanting instead to keep him a precocious little puppy for life, every day he grows older now feels like a kind of victory. Some days are better than others, but we continue to be grateful for every moment. And we feel the immense and amazing healing energy everyone has sent us since (keep it coming!). Every time we come home from work or wake up in the morning, it’s like a wonderful surprise party as we’re greeted by his gorgeous, sweet face. Today, the party is for him.