Loco Parentis: The End of My Leash

“You’ll know when it’s time,” friends assured me when our dog was diagnosed with cancer. If only it were that easy

SUMMER WOUND DOWN, and with it, my options. In late August, Marcy would return to college. Jake would go back to high school, and stay late into the evening for football. Who would let Homer out? I couldn’t afford Wendy more than once a day. Increasingly, I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t write. The stress — keeping track of Homer’s special foods, his schedule, his walks, scrubbing the rugs, washing the sidewalks, the ripe smell of him, the matted clumps of hair everywhere, his sad eyes following me out the door, me calculating whether I dared visit my sister in Jersey without him, whether I dared take him along — was just too much. To top it off, we’d had to replace my comfy old station wagon with a newer car, a Honda that Homer couldn’t get the hang of climbing into. And when he did manage, there, too, he left ripe-dog smell and clumps of fur and dots of doo.

Just like that, it crashed in on me: My dog had taken over my life. You’ll know when it’s time, my Yoda of all things canine had told me.

Not time for Homer. For me.

I announced the news to Doug while I was at the sink, scraping poop off a throw rug. “Hold on,” he said. “Let’s not rush into anything.”

I told the kids. Marcy was still pissed about the missed vacations, but Jake looked at me as if I was a stranger, a pod person. If I would do this to the dog I loved so much, what were the repercussions for him?

On Homer’s 12th birthday, we took him to the vet. He was torn between his fear of that place and his joy at having all four of us, his family, together in one place. He got a shot to numb him, then another shot. He stood for a moment, while we cried and hugged him and told him how much we loved him, what a good dog he was, the best dog in the world. Then he let out one final poop, lay down, and died.

We cremated him. You don’t bury a 120-pound dog in a yard the size of ours.