This hurts so much

Puppy Love My dog is dying.

There, I wrote it.

As I type, with tears running down my face, the words blurring in front of my eyes, Oreo my beloved 15 1/2 year old mutt is losing his battle with congestive heart disease.He's now suffering from what the vet thinks is an infection. He coughs constantly. But he still smiles, and wags his tail. He is eating and even barks a bit when somebody comes to the door. Right now, he's asleep under my desk. Someday soon we're going to be faced with the end.

I really can't imagine not having him by my side. His constant, overly protective presence has been a part of our family since my youngest child was three. My daughter picked Oreo out at the pet store, during a "just looking" visit. Well, truth be told, I sort of leaned her in his direction. He was one of two in his litter and his sister was already gone. The sign claimed he was a pomeranian, but he's clearly a mix with a good dose of spaniel in him. He's one of a kind. The guy working at the store said he was the smartest dog he'd ever met. I liked that, and the cute little tiny ball of black fur that was our family's first pet.

He is smart. Everyone who knows dogs tells me he's been here before. He has big, kind brown eyes, a soft white belly and an incredible vertical jump. Oreo loves to bury bones, herd balls and small children, and run on the beach. He's a great swimmer who spent many Mondays sneaking onto the golf course (he knew that was the day the course was closed) and taking a swim in the pond chasing ducks.  We'd see his little black head and tail cruising across the lake confident he'd catch his prey. He never did, but he had a lot of fun trying. When my husband's father was in the throes of dementia, when he couldn't remember his grandkids names, he remembered Oreo.

"He's a great little dog," he'd say, a big smile on his face.

Oreo made the cross-country move from Ohio to California with us five years ago, sitting either up on a pillow between the two front seats, or on my lap for the three-day journey. Mostly on my lap. He likes to think he's driving. I let him. He has outlasted a sheep dog (adopted by a family in Akron), a golden doodle (ditto, Worthington), two cats (with my mom, and a close friend) and countless other more transient critters. He's special, and it seems like he's always been with me.

At night, he sleeps on the end of my bed. In the morning, he wakes up and the first thing he does is check to see that I am still there.

I am still here.

And I really don't want him not to be.

Of course I'll always remember him, cherish our time together. He made our family what it is today, filled with kids who love and treasure animals. And yes, I believe in a puppy Heaven where he will be able to run without coughing and play again. He'll probably hear a wonderful man named grandpa and dad calling his name, welcoming the "great little dog" joining him there.

My kids make fun of me because I always sing a song to Oreo. It's the Sarah MacLachlan song "I Will Remember You". (I modify it a bit. . . I always have.) This is the chorus and refrain I sing, at the top of my lungs:

I will remember you, puppy love, puppy love, puppy love.

Will you remember me?

Don't let your life, pass you by

Weep not for the memories.

I am still here, Oreo.

I will remember you, puppy love.

And you always will be in my heart.

I will remember you.