Yesterday, I watched my best friend die. At the time of her death, a man dressed in a pale-grey suit checked if he had spilt any pentobarbital, my sister gripped on to whatever was left while tears spelled out a universal signal of grief, and silence, for the first time since the beginning of time, echoed.
She was 119 years old. Dad tried to remember the time before time; that is to say, the moment before seconds ticked away to some end. He stood with arms crossed, perhaps afraid to put them down in fear of what they might do with impending doom lurking around, and his voice hurdled the choking silence. He recalled the first time when mother found her. We had just moved into a new house but despite the decadence that open-concept architecture can provide – or maybe because of it – the house felt entirely incomplete. From afar, pictures appeared askew and furniture seemed out of place. It was as though the emptiness of a black hole sat at the centre of the house and set everything awry.
Just before we were drained into its mass, Mom said that she had found something that could work. A dog. A black lab she wanted to name Mocha. Dad said that black was an unlucky colo…
He broke down in tears. I didn’t have to hear the end of the story to know how it went: in the beginning there may have been light, but there was also darkness too. Mocha. In between then, life happened.
Now at the end, as my family knelt down beside a dying dog, there was also darkness. It was raining outside; no cheery sunshine escaped the gray clouds. I joked to myself that Mother Nature was crying too. She was losing her top fertilizer.
Soon after we adopted her, she adopted us. Our problems became hers because no matter what they were, she’d welcome us with an unquestioning kiss and flurry of petting. When I awoke the morning of her death, it was no different. She greeted me with a wag of a tail. She was laying on her bed, her legs unable to move without the crackle of old age weighing against them. Her smile, while consisting of teeth stained yellow from decay, remained bright and happy. She was brightening my world, and today, my sun would go out.
As she died by an injection, she made a final stretch of her legs. A physical yawn, really. I think she was trying to let us know she was comfortable. It was her talking to us – letting us know it would be alright – one final time.
Then a lifetime was told in seconds and I whispered it all to myself underneath the screeching of my sister and the wails of my mother. I muttered about when she and I and Oskar would play in the park and she’d climb the jungle-gym with us and when she tore down our Christmas tree because we stupidly put a dog treat ornament on it and when she protected us from people chasing us when we were nine and when she got hit by a car and limped our way despite blood dripping and dropping and when she barked at whoever came to the door and when Lola was bought and she thought it was a rabbit and when she pooped in the house and was embarrassed by it and when she bit into my hand and I was left with a scar. As I petted her during these final moments while she wheezed away, that scar was all I had left.
She died soon after. The final breath escaped her. I wasn’t prepared. I thought, like always, she would keep breathing. She didn’t. Claire let out a scream that probably halted the Universe’s expansion if only for a second.
For a while, we all repeated our goodbyes, almost unable to swallow the reality of it all. My Dad said she was in a better place. I said maybe. He said it was just a figure of speech, and he choked again. He was right though. She is with the birds now. Tweet, tweet, they probably go; bark, bark, she definitely goes. I hope that they are just faster than her.
I walked up the stairs after it all while I continued to try to remember everything. That time in the park. The first time she came into our house. So it went. But something caught my eye all of a sudden – all the pictures in the house appeared to be on a tilt. I tried to straighten one of them, but it just fell back down.
Mocha died on 22nd December 2012. I think that is all I need to really say. No metaphor, no great poetic or eloquent statement could change that. So, I will say no more. She died. She died. She died.
And I’m sorry for it all.
Below are moments of her life captured. If only you could have known her beyond what you could see, dear reader, you would’ve fallen in love. I fell for her every day, even on the last one.
Some may say that this extended epitaph is needless considering that she was only a dog – but to be honest, she brought out the best in us humans. Everything I am, was, and will become is a function of her because as long as I can remember – for seventeen years – she has been in my life. I am afraid during these moments when she’s not. I am afraid as I type this, and even more so when I finish because that will be the last life I breathe into Mocha, my friend. My wondrous, loving friend.
Good bye Mocha. Good bye my fantastic, familial friend. I love you entirely.