It's a basic assumption we can recognize an empty bowl when we see one. Sometimes that empty bowl will stare us in the face, and yet, we look beyond it.
At other times, that empty bowl will slap us in the face and demand to be recognized.
We didn't realize we had an empty bowl until Eddie adopted us on March 25, 2004. And just like that, our bowl was full.
No, it overflowed.
It was so unexpected. We'd never had a pet who filled our hearts so fully as this little rescue dog did. And by "rescue dog," I mean he really rescued us. He was so sweet and so grateful, and he loved us so completely.
We were his pack.
He was the child Phil and I had together. He was the dog of all time. Or, as my friend Janie Junebug would say, he was the dog of our lives.
I could speak endlessly of Eddie. But a picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words.
We lost our sweet boy on Wednesday, October 19th.
A week prior, he began to feel unwell. I won't go into all the details, but after four trips to the vet, x-rays, bloodwork, and day-long IVs, we still had no answers.
We thought he had swallowed something (even though that was completely out of his character). We thought he wouldn't eat because he had something lodged in his digestive tract.
The vet suggested the thickness of his stomach lining (as she saw in the x-ray) could be cancer.
No, it couldn't.
Fix him. We need you to fix him.
Finally, we took him to the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
We gave them details from every day of the previous week. No, he can't have cancer. He was so healthy just a week ago!
After some tests, the lymphoma discovered in his tummy was the cause of all his distress.
***********************No, this can't be fixed. He's in pain. He's no longer eating or drinking.
He must be euthanized.
We can do that for you right now, if that's what you wish.
No! We have to take him home. He needs to sleep with us one more night. He needs to know we love him! Our kids need to come and tell him goodbye. We need to hold him. Oh, Eddie . . .
We can give him pain meds, anti-nausea meds, and steroids to get him through until tomorrow.
Yes, please. Anything to help him be comfortable until tomorrow.
When our little boy came back out to the waiting room, he looked five years younger. All the meds had masked the pain of the cancer. He danced!
And it was brutal.
This is NOT a dog who needs to die! He needs to live!
But it was all a façade.
He had a pretty good evening. He still didn't want to eat his canned dog food (we call it meatloaf), but he was overjoyed at being given his very own plate of chicken salad. He ate with such fervor! He ate even more that evening!
He slept through the night for the first time in a week.
When we awoke, we could see the meds were wearing off. He went out to his yard one last time. He sadly turned away from the offered plate of chicken salad. He spent his final hours on his beloved sofa, where he had spent countless hours reading books and watching movies with us.
One of us was on constant sentry duty by his side all morning.
Around noon, the vet arrived and put our sweet boy to sleep.
That final blow to our hearts was devastating. It was unimaginable this sweet little boy, who had been such an integral part of our lives, could be gone forever.
We can never go through this again. The pain is too much to bear.
Our home went suddenly and utterly silent. And empty. And cold.
I still expect to see his little face looking around a doorway.
If I make a noise loud enough for his silky (and nearly-deaf) little ears to hear, I expect him to jump off the couch and come trotting over to me.
I drop a piece of food on the floor, and in a split second, I determine whether or not it's safe for him to eat. A moment later, I remember it doesn't matter. He's no longer waiting at my feet, anticipating that lost morsel.
I pull out the can opener and begin opening a can, fully expecting to see him staring up at me, expecting a big slab of his meatloaf. I would give anything to do that for him.
But the house remains silent and still.
I casually search the house for a puddle of doggie pee when I come home, only to recall it's not a possibility. Nothing would make me happier than to find a steaming-hot pile of shit in my closet. He only did that once, but at least it would mean he was still here.
There are dirty paw prints on the foyer floor I can't quite bring myself to wipe away.
How can a twelve-pound Schnauzer leave such a great abyss?
Before we placed Eddie in his bed for the last time, we made one more lasting memento. We could never forget him, but now we will always have this impression and know that this was HIS little foot.
Eddie Was Here.
While the bowl may not appear empty, it is certainly no longer full.
The days go by, and we go through our stages of grief. We stumble through our lives and wonder how we will ever feel whole again.
We think about our bowl being forever empty.
We wake. We breathe. A tiny bit of the heaviness lifts.
And suddenly, in a sweet moment of Grace, we realize there just may be someone out there who will rescue us.
And fill our bowl.