Saturday morning, I took my dog to the vet.
It was quite a big deal, actually. She was a very large black Lab - in the 90-lb weight class. She had bad arthritis, and for some time she hadn't been able to get herself into the back of the minivan. My au pair and I had lately been hoisting her back hips in a dishtowel sling just so she could eat and do her business.
But she wasn't always like that.
The ex and I got her as a four-month-old puppy shortly after we married. Thing is, I'm a lifelong cat owner. Categorically not a dog person. But newlyweds have fluffy pink hearts where their brains should be, so when the ex said, "Not only do we need a dog, but we need a dog the size of Texas!" I got all pink and fluffy and said, "Yee-haw!" Which I think meant yes.
Artemis. You know - black Lab, goddess of the hunt, all about the nighttime. The idea being that someday she'd have a bright and shiny yellow Lab as a companion, and we'd name him Apollo.
Fortunately, the pink fluffies wore off before that could happen.
The name did not stick, though. Artemis was not a dignified, goddessy dog. She was a Mack truck. In a head-on collision with your Camry, she'd have won. She knocked down every kid in the neighborhood at least once. Not because she tried, either. She'd bound past and they'd just topple like duckpins.
So we called her Moose.
Moose was true to her breed. She loved food. She stole hot dogs off the kids' high chairs and cookies right out of their hands. And heaven help them once she figured out there was milk in their sippy cups. We have a lot of chewed up sippy cups.
She's swiped at least one sandwich out from under the nose of every one of the seven au pairs who's lived with us, except the last one. She once upended a colander full of grapes. Really full. Ten dollars worth of full. She ate every grape and left the stems behind.
She figured out that there was food in cans - most notably in cat food cans. If anyone left the pantry door even slightly ajar, we'd find bits of aluminum and mashed up food all over the house.
I still remember one Christmas, we left for just a couple of days and had the neighbors come in to watch her. They checked on her that last morning and all was fine. We got home around dinner time to find Moose wobbling atop our dining room table, surrounded by ripped paper, cardboard and chocolate. She'd figured out there was food in that stack of fully wrapped gifts, and she'd helped herself.
When I was pregnant with my first, and we still let her up on the furniture, Moose would curl up with me on the sofa. Too big for lap-sitting, she'd rest her muzzle on my leg while I napped. She made a good blanket.
And she really took to the kids. When she wasn't knocking them down or stealing their food, she was playing horsey and letting them climb all over her. She never nipped or snapped. She never even made a sound.
She loved the snow, too. That first winter we had her, Mother Nature dumped three feet of snow on our little corner of the world. And this puppy, just learning the real purpose of the great outdoors, went bounding through snow up to her nose, reveling in the stuff. She totally forgot to pee.
This winter, 13 years later, I had to dig a path for her through the last blizzard and out to the yard. She was cold and miserable and stayed in most of the time, curled up under my feet in front of the sofa, sleeping. She was deaf and battling arthritis and an enlarged heart. She wasn't eating so much any more.
Then, last Thursday, out of nowhere, she attacked the Christmas tree. She pulled the lights off and chewed right through three full strings (which she'd thoughtfully unplugged first). I dragged her away from the tree. She couldn't stand, so she crawled on her front paws to get back to it. Over and over this happened until, finally, I gave up. I took the tree down at midnight that night and went to bed worried.
So I took her to the vet. I took her to the vet, who thought the incident with the lights was evidence of neurological damage, probably from a slipped disk. In just those two days, she'd stopped walking on her own. She'd stopped eating.
Moose died on Saturday. She had massive big hugs from the kids, and a great big bowl of chocolate gelato to see her out. She was surrounded by every one of those fluffy pink hearts.
We'll miss her.