i was dreaming about him when the phone rang, too early to be anything but bad news.
i was dreaming about him the way he was when he first found me.
"He's seven pounds," my mom was raging into the phone when she brought him back from the hospital. that's how much he weighed when he found me, i thought.
he has tiny grey hairs, i said in surprise, when i was laying with him at the hospital. he was laying on a grey metal table. i was trying to figure out how i could spend the night there, in the veterinary hospital, at his side. "he's old," my mom said. "he's had those hairs." i just touched his rich fur, staring at the tiny grey hairs. then i laid my face on his side and took a deep breath of him, of what he smelled like. not even all his time in the hospital could take that beautiful smell away.
when i realized what time it was, my whole body went cold. 5:51AM. my alarm was set to go off at 6:30, to call my mom, to ask her how he was doing, had he eaten? was he meowing?
but the phone was ringing. it was her.
mom? is he ok?
"no," she said. "the pup passed away."
it took time, it took precious seconds ticking away to realize what she said. anthony asked what it was. pup passed away.
and then the sobs came, the horrible sobs, the gnawing doubt, was it my fault? did i do this?
no. every decision i made felt right; even now, i didn't regret them. the instant panic washed over me, though: what to do right this second? i have to get there, to hold him, to bury him. he at least died at home, not in a cage. he died with dignity, held in arms that loved him.
we both calmed down. calls were made, sadness swept through me, over and over. when i called back, i didn't expect an answer, but asked anyway:
what time did he die?
5:16, my mom said, and wept.
he's lived with my mom for six months. the month before he left, i came home every night and held him, played with him, slept with him. let him hang out with me while i got a shower. talked to him, made up new songs with his name. even now, six months later, songs about him come unbidden into my head. i want to sing them all, always. they burst out of me, and i look for him.
one day, i was sad, and laid down on the couch. i felt tired, bone-weary. my hand was over the side of the couch, and i swear, i was waiting to feel his nose press on my fingers, his meow at my side. "what is it, mom?"
i have to bury him tonight. i can't even think about that right now. right now all i can say is: thank you, pup. thank you for being my best friend for the last decade. i love you. i always will. you will always be the captain of my heart. i will always be yours.