Time to Say Goodbye

My Dearest Gibson,

We met four years and at least six hairstyles ago. For me, that is. You’ve changed, too, mostly in gray fur and longer leg hair. Also, remember that time I got bangs? I feel that if you could talk, you would have warned me against bangs. But thanks for sticking by me regardless. Also, thanks for posing for all of those selfies with me. It seemed like the best way to show off a new haircut without looking too self-absorbed.

A lot of other things have changed since our first meeting in the Upper East Side apartment. For starters, we moved to a new city and we joined families. You were a big part of that. But before the wedding and the big backyard, we had Central Park and the Barnes and Noble at 86th that didn’t mind you riding the escalator. I need to be reminded of these things.

In 2010, I needed someone to show me around New York when I ran away from Nashville–but I didn’t necessarily want the company of a human. I didn’t want someone to coach me on their Best of New York list–I wanted to find one by myself. But I didnt want to be alone, either. I know, it was a very self-centered time in my life, but I don’t regret it. So, I settled on a golden retriever who seemed to know the best spots in the park, how to get to the nearest bookstore, where to stop for coffee, and–of course–where to find the best dog treats. I should have taken it as a sign then that your New York was pretty much your owner’s New York.

You just had different priorities than he did on a perfect Spring day (as in, rolling in the grass instead of finding a sidewalk cafe with outdoor seating). The first time I set out and decided to walk West on 78th Street instead of turning to head uptown, you led me straight to Central Park. Across Madison and Park Avenues, through streets dotted with million dollar flats and old buildings. I saw where the other half lived, but not necessarily how they lived. We were moving too fast to stop and think about how someone can possibly afford a brownstone and private school tuition and that $2,000 stroller that was chained up outside. We were going straight for the fountain, the famous one, whose name I could never remember. And once you caught sight of it, you would pull me along until you were close enough to jump in.

One time, you jumped in, only to look around confused and disappointed. It had been drained for construction. That was the best day.

Usually, though, you swam around long enough to cool off, and then we found a suitable park bench with a hill in the back. I’d read and you would roll. Other dogs would stop and try to play with you, but you didn’t have much use for that. You only wanted to eat sticks and get your chest scratched. I only wanted to escape all human contact and write in my journal. It worked out well.

After I got used to the city streets, we spent time in dog parks, wine bars, other parks, rooftops, other boroughs, your fire escape, coffee shops, and bookstores. Pretty much anywhere I wanted to go. We fell into a routine. I came up with nicknames for you (Bones, Old Bones, Sweetest Bones, Happy Wagger, Sweetest Gibson) and you started leaning on my legs to let me know when you were nervous at parties. We learned to communicate, and it worked. Sadly, after my three-month sublease was up, I said goodbye to you. You mourned. Daniel could tell because you licked all of the fur off of your legs. Hundreds of miles away in Nashville, I mourned, too. I missed both of you

It didn’t take me long to return. You were a great comfort when I came back one weekend, crying, looking for a place to put down some roots. I didn’t realize it then, but all I wanted was for us to be a family. I just didn’t know how to ask for it yet. I was young and scared. So when I drank Malbec on the sidewalk and tried to sort it out, you laid by my feet, occasionally standing up to put your head in my lap. After a few years, we figured it all out.

And then there was the farm. Rolling acres and your favorite people. You got a new lease on life in Nashville, and I did, too. When I fought with Daniel and stormed out, you waited for me by the door. Sometimes all night. When we weren’t fighting (the vast majority of the time), we were kayaking, hiking, grilling, and exploring neighborhoods. The first time we took you to the greenway at Shelby Bottoms you begged to get off of your leash and jumped into the pond. Nobody was looking, so we let you. You loved Nashville right away. You kind of forgot how to walk on a leash properly, but I didn’t mind. We had a yard to spend time in. We were done with city streets.

Eventually, it came time for you to give up the farm and make my backyard your backyard. I don’t think it took long. I think my favorite thing was spending time with you next to the garden. I have never cooked homegrown green beans because I fed you every single one. I looked the other way when you ate tomatoes off the vine, too. I don’t regret it.

You were there when we got engaged, swimming in Percy Priest Lake and ignoring the promise of a lifetime together behind you. I’m glad you were there. I’m glad you came to our wedding, too. I know it significantly freaked you out to have 150 people at our house, but you handled it well. You posed for pictures, and you tried not to beg too much. You were a most honored guest.

The first year of marriage was pretty awesome for all three of us. Those will be my favorite memories, of gardening and cooking, organizing our small house, taking trips to Asheville, Ohio, and Atlanta, falling asleep on the living room floor. You gave us a scare when your spleen almost ruptured, but we worked it out. I started waking up every night to check on you, afraid that you would have a seizure or stop breathing in the night. I know you were annoyed, but thanks for putting up with it. A lot of times I just laid awake, listening to you and Daniel snore and feeling really lucky to have the life I have.

I hate that it’s over now. I know that our lives will go on, with plenty more adventures. Daniel and I are both optimistic enough to know that we will recover and move on. But things will never be the same. I’ll never live in New York again…mostly, I would never want to live there without you. We’ll get another dog, and maybe even a kid. We’ll add on to the house or move somewhere else. We’ll grow older and we’ll grow gardens. Things will get better, but they won’t be the same. We’ll always miss you, even when we’re happy.

I didn’t want it to end this way. I didn’t want to do you a kindness or let you slip away. But I know you want to be able to run and play. I don’t know what happened to your legs, but you just can’t get around anymore. I’m pretty sure you understand this. You know that we’d both keep picking up freelance jobs to pay for new medications and treatments if we thought it would work. But you seemed to have decided that it’s time to go. As always, I know what you’re trying to say. This time, I’m going to oblige.

After all, it’s been a good ride. We became fast friends when we both needed it most. I needed a silent NYC tour guide, and you needed more fresh air. Later on, I needed a companion, and you wanted a family. Then I wanted a family, too. It worked out for the best, and you’re leaving me a better person–with better hair–than I was when we met. Thanks for everything. Now go on. You’re going to be just fine. And I will be, too.