“Love me, love my dog” is a well-worn idiom. In Humphrey’s case, the reverse was equally true, “Love my dog, love me.” Humphrey saw the parade of men that came entered and exited my life. Breaking up with Humphrey was harder on them than breaking up with me. “I’m sure going to miss Humphrey,” they invariably said as they departed—the guy I was sure I was going to marry and Brian the canoe-proposing lawyer both regretted giving up custody of Humphrey when our relationships ended. The guys interested in me for sex who were the more fleeting-romance-types seemed oblivious less attached to either of us.

This was my supposed husband-to-be with Humphrey and me. Don't we look happy? I don't have pictures of the other guys. It's probably best...

Chuck embraced us both with open arms. Humphrey reciprocated. When Chuck married me, he adopted a big shaggy dog, and that was hunky-dory with all parties. When our family of three expanded to a family of four with Alex’s arrival, Humphrey was curious, but accommodating. He was delighted when I finally came home from the hospital but confused when I brought back this little critter that demanded so much of my attention. True to form, Humphrey adapted. If I loved this little creäture, he did, too.

Shove over, I want to be in on all this cuddling action, too!

Humphrey was always angling for a snack.

Hey, It's looks likes a toy store exploded around here! I'm just trying to make room to lie down.

Large dogs, especially purebreds, are notorious for hip problems. Humphrey was no exception. Long before Alex came on the scene, Humphrey showed signs that his hips were giving him trouble. While I couldn’t afford hip replacement, I did all that I could to ameliorate his pain and postpone the inevitable deterioration of his hip joints. All those stairs for six years couldn’t have helped his hips. I moved to a first floor apartment. We stopped playing frisbee and tug of war, much to his disappointment. I eventually gave him low doses of anti-inflammatories and pain-killers. I started pre-mourning his death when he was about 6 years old. But Humphrey had a lot of spunk left in him and I tried to not forget that.

Humphrey was never much when it came to typical canine instincts. I always called him a “human in a dog suit.” But as he aged, his dog-sense sharpened. On walks, he “found” his herding instinct, making sure Alex and I were close. He guarded us like our lives depended on it. His usual habit was to check on all of us before he settled in for the night on my side of the bed. I could always reach down and feel him; it was reassuring.

About 8 months before he died, he had a stroke that left him deaf. He stopped sleeping by my side of the bed. He’s start there and moved to the front door of the condo, with his back pressed against the door so he could feel potential intruders. He was determined to keep me and his family safe. But it became clear that he was wearing out. The old Humphrey sparkle was rarely in his eyes; it appeared briefly at the smell of his dinner and precious snacks. Vet visits confirmed what I knew in my heart: his organs were failing.

I know you need me, but I'm getting real tired, Mom.

Humphrey took such good care of me for over a decade, giving me love and laughter when I needed both in heaping helpings. I owed him the honor of taking the best care of him when he needed it most. I vowed not to let him die alone and without dignity. He deserved at least that much. I made the decision to have him euthanized in our condo so he wouldn’t have to suffer getting into or out of our car. I wanted him as comfortable as possible. Finding a vet who would make house-calls in the D.C. area was preposterous laughable difficult and extortionate usurious expensive, but I found one.  Our appointment was one week away.

That week was both long and short. It was a week of “lasts”: our last Monday, our last walk, his last meal. Humphrey’s coat was perpetually soaked in our tears. It was just as hard on Chuck. Even 18-month-old Alex knew something was wrong with “Hummy” and Mommy. Sometimes it’s easier not knowing when a loved one is going to die.

I wanted to call it off the day it was scheduled. I kept feeding Humphrey snacks and he looked content. Maybe he could stay with us a little longer? The vet arrived. He was very pragmatic and got right down to business. Humphrey died in my arms. The last thing he felt were my tears dripping on his face and my arms hugging him. The last thing I felt was peace as he left his broken body and entered my heart, where he still lives.

So when I said in that former post, “My dog died,” that was no small event. It left me both empty and full, weakened and strengthened. Like every inch of by bumpy journey, I learned a little more about myself and life from unexpected teachers—this time, a goofy shaggy dog who held my heart and kept it safe for as long as he could.

I'm still here and you know it, so stop your crying and get back to writing your funny stories.

Remember how we both loved Tom Sellick? I knew I'd get you to smile!