Friday night ended with me doing one of the hardest things I’ll ever have to do in my life. That evening, Melvin and Cabbie passed away. It took one shot to put them to sleep, and another to stop our hearts.
If you know me well, chances are you’ve met Melvin and Cabbie. They’re hard to miss, two goofy German Shepherd mutts. One big, one not as big. One over-eager to be your bestfriend, one … not as eager – but still friendly enough. I’ve joked often that they are the most useless guard dogs ever – unless you were a thief allergic to dog saliva.
If you’ve never owned a dog, then it’s hard to describe how constant and unfailing the warmth of their love is. I can tell you this much, it surrounds you, envelopes you and its warmth is almost as tangible as a blanket – wrapped around your heart. Even on your worst days, their love is unfaltering and free of judgement.
And I had two of the best.
Boy meets girl. Boy marries girl.
My joke about the boys being useless guard dogs died when Lisa became family. Whenever I wasn’t around, two of the goofiest dogs turned into sentinels determined to keep her safe at all cost. Well, one of them did. While Cabbie would bark a bit, he was usually curled up next to Mommy and left the serious guarding to Melvin. Melvin was by no means a small dog so while he didn’t bark too often, there was a menacing edge to his low guttural growl. Just ask the dire wolves he stood in front of when Lisa was trying to watch Game of Thrones.
Our family of four became a family of five when Emme arrived.
Once in a while there are certain scenes you have in your head that end up playing out exactly how you thought they would in real life. Every day of Emme’s life with Melvin and Cabbie felt like that. While the boys had no clue what the heck was going on, they took their cues from us and assumed correctly that Emme was here to stay. To their delight, embracing her completely paid off in spades when she became the ultimate source of food to supplement their own dog food. Outside of keeping an eye out for food they couldn’t eat, I’ve never had to worry about cleaning up food Emme spilled on our floors.
Emme enjoyed an especially strong love with Cabbie. Lisa strongly believes that all of the cuddle time she had with Cabbie when she was pregnant resulted in this unshakable bond between Cabbie and Emme. Watching Emme grow the past few years and seeing her hug and tug every part of him while he just sat there – I don’t doubt it.
When Marlowe came to crash this party of five, I thought it would be more of the same – plus one. Sadly, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not too long after welcoming Marlowe into the family, Melvin developed a limp and seemed to be in a bit of pain. His vet diagnosed him with osteosarcoma, bone cancer. He had a few months to live and outside of surgery that wouldn’t really extend his life much longer, the most we could do was to give him medication that would just barely help him manage the pain.
To say that we were devastated would be an understatement. There are few problems that hugging Melvin couldn’t solve and wrestling around on the ground with him could usually fix the rest. Regardless of how he was feeling, he kept greeting people he came across with the same wide goofy smile and puppy-like enthusiasm that he’s had since the day I took him home. I struggled to explain to Emme how Melvin had to go away because he was hurting inside. “Can I keep Cabbie then?” she asked. “Sure kiddo,” I said. Wrong again.
Just before Melvin was diagnosed we noticed Cabbie getting a bit less sprightly. He started accidentally peeing at times and places he never used to. We thought that the lethargy was possibly due to depression because of Melvin’s condition and that the peeing was him acting out because Melvin was all of a sudden getting twice the number of treats he was. I had slipped into a state of almost denial about Melvin’s deterioration and had taken a bit of solace in believing that at least Cabbie would have more time with Emme and would get a chance to know Marlowe. Part of me will always be kicking myself for not having taken him in sooner.
On Friday, Cabbie kept trying to pee and nothing would come out. Since they had no free appointments, the vet urged me to go to the emergency room after hearing me describe Cabbie. I thought that at the worst, his lack of energy and miserable looking state was because he might have a stone or something. Several scans confirmed the worst, the vet told me that near his spleen was a cancerous growth that had started bleeding into his belly. Not good.
After discussing the options we had, we made the decision for Melvin and Cabbie to go out the same way they lived life. Together. As much as we loved the idea of holding on to Melvin, the idea of Melvin suffering through the next month or two without Cabbie just hurt too much.
The only movie I’ve ever watched that ended with everyone in the theatre crying was Marley and Me. If you’ve seen the movie, then you have a hint of the pain we went through in the end. Despite the pain he was in while limping around, Melvin was still trying to lick everyone that came into the examination room. Whatever meds Cabbie was on had worn off and he was clearly in so much pain he just wanted to quietly sit in the bed he was on. The doctor came in and Melvin plopped on down with part of his body on top of Cabbie’s like usual.
My brother Gary hovered over half of Melvin and was sobbing out a few words I could barely make out. Outside of our family, Melvin and Cabbie never loved anyone else like they did Gary.
“Cabbie, don’t piss off any of the dogs up there just so Melvin can come protect you. Melvin, stop drinking all of Cabbie’s water,” I said.
“Thank you for letting me be your Mommy. I love you bud buds,” Lisa tearfully added as the doctor joined their tubes together.
“Watch out for each other over there,” I managed through the tears. “I love you guys so much. You guys are the best.”
Then it was one shot to put them to sleep and another to stop our hearts.
“Thank you for everything buddies … ”
I keep expecting Melvin to walk in and plop himself down near Emme’s bedroom door as I put her to sleep. I keep looking down to make sure I’m won’t step on Cabbie as I walk over to change Marlowe’s diaper. Our family feels painfully smaller now without the boys. Our home feels emptier without their excited greeting at the door and there are reminder’s of them everywhere we look. Lisa and I have to pause here and there to deal with the moment when the emotions get a bit much.
“It’s ok, I miss them too. I love my brothers,” Emme says as she pats me on the back.
I miss my boys so much. I miss hugging them and I miss smiling proudly as Emme tells them, “SIT!” so she can give them treats each night. I miss pretending not to see Emme sneak food to them and I miss sneaking food to them myself. I miss watching them watch over my girls like the great older brothers that they were and I miss how quietly they were just there when you needed to talk. Our home is so much quieter without them but somehow their warmth remains.
There is nothing on this Earth like the love of a good dog. We were blessed to be swimming in the love of two of the best.