A week ago yesterday I was sitting in the living room with my husband, our oldest daughter, her boyfriend, and Sully. It had been a rough couple of days. We took Sully to the ER on Sunday night, because Lord knows dog emergencies only ever happen after 9pm on a weekend. What we thought was yet another pair of undies stuck in his tummy, a lifelong struggle with him, turned out to be a large tumor in his liver. For which the only cure would be removal.
I was able to bring him home Monday night and the plan was to bring him back for surgery on Wednesday. Tuesday was fun. He was playful, sassy, happy, all of the things we loved most about him. While we were watching the Olympics he played with us and then fell asleep as the night went on. I can’t even remember what we were talking about – this now feels like several years ago – but I said “I am the luckiest girl in the world.” I was being sarcastic about something but, when pressed, I admitted that I actually do feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
In that moment I was with my husband who I like more and more as time goes on, my daughter who had just found out she’d improved her ACT score significantly, our youngest was at a sleepover with good friends, and my Sully was curled in a ball at my feet. Our home is happy and calm and, for the most part, peaceful. We have amazing friends, amazing families, and we’re always talking about how lucky we are. I was so glad to have Sully home with us, acting normal, that I had to say it out loud.
That night and the next morning, Sully was extra snuggly. He hopped up into our bed, something he wasn’t doing too much anymore, and stayed close as our alarms went off and we started our day. I drove him to the hospital for surgery and on the way I did tell him that if for whatever reason he felt like he needed to just go, that it would be okay, not really thinking that would even be a thing – but making sure he knew just the same. Four hours after I dropped him off, he was gone. Cancer had spread throughout his liver and his little body just did not respond well to surgery.
Let me paint a picture of the relationship between me and my Sullivan. We got him at a time when we were talking about whether or not we should have our own kids. A friend of the family recently brought home two Irish Goldendoodles and my husband fell in love with them. I found ours on some random puppy app. He was $300, this was before goldendoodles got crazy popular, and we had to drive an hour to meet the breeder at a gas station. The guy asked if we wanted him to bring all three boy puppies left in the litter and I told him absolutely not – I knew that would only result in us taking home three puppies. I told the guy to just pick one, which in retrospect, was really rolling the dice. He was driving a van that reminded me of the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo and he even looked like Shaggy. He had little nine-week old Sully in a big kennel in the back of the van, all alone, and he was nervous to come out. After the breeder drove away, we never found him again. I tried a couple weeks later for a friend of the family who also wanted a goldendoodle and he’d basically disappeared off of the face of the earth. I really think The Universe dropped that little boy in my family’s lap. He became the kid we had been discussing having of our own.
I took Sully everywhere. Every errand. He learned to love the car which was good because I was still driving little girls to and from a million activities. When his little legs were long enough, he became my walking and running partner. We walked two to four days a week and he kept me going when I wanted to stop. Or wanted to take a day off. He galloped next to me, looking back and smiling, and he instantly became my favorite workout partner ever. Within two years, I started a job that allowed him to come with me every day. Promoted from driving buddy, to running and walking partner, to officemate. For eight years he came to work with me nearly every day and became a favorite in our office. I talked to him constantly. Brought him everywhere. Loved coming home to him. He was our family’s ever-present joy that kept our home calm and happy.
For the ten years he was with us, I probably had him with me 80% of the time. My constant companion. He had my whole entire heart. So losing him so suddenly (especially when I’ve told him numerous times he was not allowed to leave me until he was at least twelve) was devastating. Within three days we went from not knowing anything was seriously wrong to him being gone. We were just floored. I am not very emotional, I am absolutely not a crier, and I found myself unable to function and crying every four minutes. FOR DAYS.
I feel guilty for not knowing sooner that something serious was wrong. I feel guilty that he probably didn’t feel well for months and hid it from us. I feel guilty because as my family started talking about when we might be ready to welcome our next dog, one fell into our lap that we may be picking up this upcoming weekend. I feel guilty, and sad, and angry, and sometimes being in our house feels excruciating because my Sully isn’t here anymore and home, to me, includes Sullivan.
And yet – I was texting with my husband a few days ago, maybe even on the day we lost him, and I said again “seriously – I truly DO feel like the luckiest girl in the world. Even after losing Sully.” He said “maybe just not this week.”
The truth is, our family is so incredibly lucky to be able to love as deeply as we do. Whether it’s each other, or our Sullivan (or the next dog…or the one after that). My husband is the only partner with whom I would want to go through this kind of grief. And at the end of the day, being this sad has shown me how very infrequently I’m actually sad. I’m so lucky to live a life that makes me happy surrounded by people who make me happy. So even though we’re still knee-deep in grief for the loss of our boy Sully, I’m also feeling ever-so-grateful that we got to have him in our family for as long as we did. He played a big part in helping me become the kind of adult I am. He calmed me, showed me unconditional and uncomplicated love, and he was just the very best dog.
I will never fully get over his having to leave us just one week after his tenth birthday. I will cherish the ridiculous amount of pictures I’ve taken of him over the years, and the pawprint the vet hospital gave us last week, forever. And he will always be one of the reasons that, on most days, I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
Bye buddy, we miss you so so much.