But the week before I left for my southern book tour, we realized that our first dog, Captain Nemo, was failing. He was incontinent, his back end was atrophied. I didn't realize how bad things had gotten until after he was gone. We looked back at the old photographs - his strong body, long stride - and knew it was time to say goodbye.
This is how it happened: we put the kids to bed. The Dogtor brought home two bacon cheeseburgers, and he and Nemo ate them together. Nemo was bewildered by his good luck - I only wish he could have eaten the burger more slowly. But I will never stop wishing for more time with him.
We adopted Nemo the day we returned from our honeymoon. He was probably five. He had a goofy dog smile and loose hips. He acted as if he had never seen water before. He used to do 360s down our hallway when the leash came out.
And we talked about all of those things that night.
We sat down on the kitchen floor, the three of us, the way it had been ten years ago when there were no other dogs, no kids, and we talked. We cried. We delayed, looked for other things to do, to say. And then the Dogtor gave Nemo a sedative, and we held him as he lost consciousness, fell into a deep sleep. I watched the lids of his eyes sag, heard his breath deepen. I hugged him, kept his head in my lap. We administered the euthanasia solution, and waited for his heart to stop.
It was a privilege, a hard one, to do this ourselves. My husband is good at his job, even when his heart is broken.
We carried Nemo out to the backyard, to a corner where other good dogs rest, and buried him underneath a full moon.