Lizzie, Penny, and the Champ

Dear President Biden,

Yesterday we had to put our dear old dog, Lizzie, down and in checking to see how your dogs are faring (given Major’s mishaps), I learned that you lost Champ on Saturday. I’m so sorry. It sounds like he and Lizzie would have enjoyed each other, though I’m afraid Lizzie’s exuberance might have been a bit much for Champ sometimes. Really, what it sounds like is that they shared a similarly sweet and positive nature.

In reflecting on Lizzie last night we realized that not once in her 14 years did she ever snarl or snap at anyone or anything. She didn’t lunge at squirrels or bunnies – or cars. To the end, she was friend to all. We had to wait quite a long time in the veterinarian parking lot and it was too hot to sit in the car so we wandered around in the shade with both dogs, me holding Lizzie up with her sling. And, that time was precious because our girl got to see all sorts of other dogs and humans going in an out of the (very) busy practice and she wagged a tiny bit at each sighting. At one point, one of the vet techs mistakenly called us over as though it was time to go inside, but she was looking for Huey, not Lizzie. However, when she realized that she had Lizzie nuzzling her hand and her pocket, knowing what was coming for Lizzie (not Huey) she had the best time doling out all the dog biscuits she had to her.

I don’t know whether Champ died on his own or needed an assist, but obviously since we were at the vet, we had to make the decision to let Lizzie go. If you and Jill had to make that decision for Champ, I hope his situation was clear and that it wasn’t too hard figuring out what the most humane thing to do for him was. Over the last week or so, we found that Lizzie could rally briefly for special people and for novelty but her downward trend was really obvious and given her age and the physical challenges she had, we knew better than to hold out hope that she could ever get better enough to have consistently decent quality of life.

Still, though, it was helpful that upon opening the car door in the vet parking lot, there was a face up penny on the ground right there. I don’t believe in a God, per se, but I think I’ve told you that I allow myself “universe” moments and I chose to see the penny as such a moment. Why would I take a face up penny to be a signal that we were making a solid decision for our girl? Well, first because Laura and I have had a thing about the face up pennies we’ve found for one another since forever. Second, my colleague and friend in Boston who I’d been meeting with earlier yesterday morning sent me off with very kind, sweet thoughts since he knew what was coming next and the week before he’d shared that his dog, Penny, had torn her ACL a few years ago. So here was Penny waiting for Lizzie.

I know intellectually that all of this is silly, but making sense of painful stuff and getting “confirmation” beyond the usual (real) indicators that one’s decisions are ok, is sometimes really helpful.

Yesterday afternoon I noticed for the first time that there’s a heart-shaped void among the branches of the huge Douglas fir tree a couple of yards over. I think maybe Lizzie and Champ are just on the other side of it and if they are, I bet they’re having a lovely time getting acquainted.

May we all be safe to go when it’s time.
May we all be willing to step up and not selfishly hold on.
May we trust that we are strong enough to find the pennies, and the hearts, we need.
May we accept that change (and loss) is inevitable.

Tracy Simpson

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