I never let go.

The day you were born, I started carrying you and one of your sisters around together all the time.

I never let go.

When I picked you out as my own, gave you a name and started to build a bond with you, I never could have imagined all of the things we would do together.

I never let go.

Probably doing so many things wrong, definitely learning lessons and how to be a better person…all things I went through with you.

I never let go.

Growing up, leaving you behind to go on vacations, then out with friends, then to boyfriend’s houses for the weekend…I always knew you’d be there when I came home.

I never let go.

Taking you for rides, to car meets, to stores, to parks – all memories that I will cherish forever and am so happy I was able to make with you.

I never let go.

Finding a boy I wanted to marry and uprooting your life to create one of our own, something you took in stride just like everything else. Leaving behind your big yard and seemingly endless woods to move into a smaller place with no land at all, you didn’t really seem to mind. You were with me.

I never let go.

When we lost one of your sisters to cancer and I immediately took you to the vet for a full workup, which led to your Cushing’s diagnosis. So many trips to the vet ensued and you knew exactly where we were just pulling into the parking lot, trembling with absolute fear. So many times I had to drag you in for bloodwork and ultrasounds and dropoffs for STIM tests, and it always crushed a little piece of me to see you so afraid.

I never let go.

The summer in Boone when I found the lump on your shoulder, you probably didn’t even know what was going on but from that moment I just had a terrible feeling. Watching it grow, getting the first FNA result as benign but a nagging feeling telling me to get a second opinion…and NC State confirming it was malignant. A soft tissue sarcoma.

I never let go.

Watching your insides start to rebel against existence, knowing your gallbladder wasn’t functioning properly and you probably had liver cancer on top of everything else was horrifying. Every single day seemed like it was going by too fast, and a time without incident only meant something else was coming soon.

I never let go.

All of the things through which you persevered – a child for a mom, constant change, discovering independence and losing it later on, physical disorders, endocrine disorder, neurological disorders – you never stopped waking up every single day happy to see us and start your next journey. You were a constant reminder of optimism and renewable joy, a ray of sunshine no matter where you went or what you were going through.

I never let go.

The seizures started in February. We didn’t know that’s what it was until last month, when you had another one. Suddenly entering another world, nonresponsive and immobile but still conscious and able to hold yourself up. With some gentle coaxing you would come back down and go about your activities like nothing had happened. Until last night. When I saw you I knew this was different, and something was really wrong. I scooped you in my arms and carried you outside to my car, but for the first time I got in the back and held you while he drove. You laid in my lap, drooling on me and seizing again before we got to the emergency room. I knew I was losing you.

I never let go.

I carried you into the room and laid you on the stupid cold metal table, keeping my arm and hand under your head. I watched as your body began to shut down, and knew that even if we spent all the money we had that it was time, and it wasn’t fair to prolong what was happening. The vet came in and administered the syringes that would help stop your heart, it was trying so hard to keep you alive…and stop the suffering.

Through all of it, I never let go.

When you left your earthly vessel, I held you in my lap in the cold, sterile room and tried to make sense of what had happened. Within an hour my life had been completely destroyed, and I still don’t know if I believe it’s real. I spent the last few hours of your life running errands, and at the barn – a normal evening but now a bitter memory and regret. I helped tuck you in to the pillowcase they provided and carried you out, held you in my lap for the next few hours as we met your grandpa so he could say goodbye, and then as we went home. The windows were down and we played Incubus, because you never liked to ride in a quiet car. I watched as the moonlight kissed your head for the last time and knew that a part of my soul had died. I carried you into our home, outside onto the deck, and sat you in my lap with your head on my chest. I listened to the sounds of the summer evening, looked at the few stars I could find, and wondered how I would get through this. I finally decided it was time for bed and so I carried you upstairs and tucked you in, the last time I would ever get to. I kissed your head, told you goodnight and that I love you, and crawled into my own bed with the realization it was the last time I would ever look down past my feet and see you in your princess bed. I took a photo and cried.

This morning we woke up and talked about you. I had a terrible dream, but you were in it. You were gone, but you were okay…and there were things in that dream that tried to hurt us and throughout the entirety we never let them get to you. You never got hurt. I like to think both of those things are a reflection of reality, and your life. Around 8am I picked you up and wrapped you in your blanket, and carried you outside back to the car. In the backseat we sat, with you on my lap, for an hour until we reached the end of your earthly journey. I carried you inside, placed you on the little cart, kissed you and told you I loved you and left, leaving behind something so immeasurably precious that I know I couldn’t hold forever, but god damn I just wish I could have.

Snowflake, I truly hope you understand the profound impact you have had on this world. So many people have met you, seen you, complimented you, and loved you. The last fifteen and a half years of my life have been beyond what I could have ever hoped for, because of you. I have faced so many heartaches, disappointments, lessons and loss with you always there, a constant pillar of strength. I don’t know what I am going to do now without you here. Walking into this house and understanding the silence, realizing the permanence of the last 24 hours destroyed me. I screamed and sobbed and died into your blanket, as all I have left of you are things. Blankets, beds, toys, bones…soon I will have the remains of your physical being but that’s both a comfort and a nightmare. This time yesterday you were sleeping, curled up in your bed as I worked. The same thing you did every day, faithfully, without complaint. Not to diminish your absolute unyielding personality, because you were not just a dog. You were a tiny person, a life and a mind with thoughts and emotions and opinions. You held knowledge, and intuition and so much feeling. You did not blindly follow, you lead – always in front, always on a mission, and it made me overjoyed to follow you wherever you wanted to go.

You had such a zest for life and exploration. So many places and things and people you saw in your 15 years, and I tried to give you as many opportunities for adventure and comfort as I could. Why treat you like anything less than what you were? You were an incarnation of perfection, a soul that was too kind and too forgiving. I looked up to you and your ability to be the best version of yourself at almost all times. You found joy in the simplest of things, and I will never tire of thinking of how you leapt into the car at any chance you had. You just wanted to go, and do, and see. I like to think that I fostered that sense of curiosity, and tenacious desire for fresh air and sunshine and crisp, fresh water from creeks and rivers. Nature was the thing we always had together. Growing up on 10 acres of forest and field and creek, all we had time to do was explore. We created a world, did things we shouldn’t have, swam where we shouldn’t have, got caked in mud and picked up bugs and sticks and leaves and carried the wild in our hearts.

We traveled thousands of miles together, climbed mountains, played on beaches, ate at restaurants and sometimes just drove to drive. You watched me fall in and out of love, learn to drive, learn to work, learn to commit. I can’t believe this is real. I’m sitting here, in your bed with your blanket in my lap and waves of realization continuously crash over me. The breath is knocked from my lungs as I understand that when I carried you out that door this morning, it was for the last time. I will never pet your head, or smell your fur, or scratch your back again. I won’t ever see you wake up and stretch, roll and wiggle out of bed, run to the kitchen for food, stand at my feet while I cook, have sweet little dreams, bark at nothing out the door, relax in the backseat as the wind flaps your ears…I can’t ever bend down and ask for a kiss and feel your tongue on my nose again. I can’t ever kiss your cheek and get a kiss back, kiss the other cheek and get another kiss back…those kiss wars were my favorite. So many things you did I don’t know where you learned them from, and so many others I do. I remember teaching you to lay down when you were ‘grown up’ and you got it so easily. How you learned certain hand gestures, if I nodded my head a certain way, you were so incredibly smart.

The house is so quiet. My head is so loud. The silence just encloses us, and it’s deafening. We’ve yet to truly have our routines interrupted and I dread it. What will I do without you telling me its 4pm so you need to eat soon? Or hearing you cry upstairs because game time is over, and it’s late night snack time instead? What will he do when he wakes up another morning and there’s no potty time, no breakfast to serve, no tip taps on the floor? When will I stop trying to get up slowly, because the sound of my bones cracking would wake you up and I never wanted to disturb you? What will I do on weekends when I wake up and go into the office, and you aren’t there to greet me with a big stretch and impatience to go downstairs and start your day? How could I ever go for another walk in the morning or evening without you there, sniffing things and trotting along? So much of my life was shaped by your existence. Your absence has left behind a gaping hole, in the everyday and in our hearts.

I know the amount of strength and diligence you maintained to press forward, to see you through fifteen and a half years was unfathomable. You took every diagnosis and shook it aside, marching on without relent. If treatment was required you dealt with it, and absorbed it into your resolve. Everyone always reminded me how lucky I was, that you were still here and I never once denied that. Every single day I had with you was absolutely perfect, even when they weren’t. I hold firm the belief that you waited, you didn’t stop fighting your body until you saw I had something to fall back on, which was Muraco. I knew I couldn’t keep you forever, but nevertheless I constantly rejected the idea that I would have to say goodbye, so of course that choice wouldn’t be left up to me. It couldn’t have been. I like to think that you just remember running downstairs to go outside, go potty and come back in for your snack. Maybe you remember us talking to you, helping you to the floor, but knowing we were there. Even if you knew something was wrong I truly don’t believe you were aware for long, and while the way I had to see you out of this world was not what I ever wanted…I don’t think you suffered. Your body did, but your mind and your soul were already somewhere else by the time your lungs filled with breath for the last time. And I really, truly hope and want to believe that you know that through everything last night, I never let go. I always promised I would be there for you, I would never let anything happen to you and I would carry you through it, and I did. I never let go.

I love you to the ends of the universe, and farther still. The love and adoration and respect and admiration I have for you is fierce and unrelenting. I will carry you with me always, and I will always have you tethered to me. Anywhere I go, you’ll be right there, just as you have been all this time. This can’t be happening…I’ve had all these years with you and it will have never been enough. Forever would not have been long enough. Snowflake, I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to be me without you. I truly do not know how to exist without you here on this planet with me, in my life, physically around and alive.

No one and nothing could or will ever take your place. I firmly believe you are my soulmate, and our birth charts proved it. I’ll never get over that…it was written in the stars. We were destined to be together and I will never understand how lucky I was that my timeline got crossed with yours. And the entire thing…your entire life I was here. And for over half of mine, you were here. Now you’re gone, and I would so rather carry this pain of losing you than for you to have ever lost me, but yours is the greatest love I’ve ever known and thus the greatest price of grief I’ve ever paid.

I could write forever. I could say so many things…I can only hope you can hear me. Feel me, see me, something. I don’t know what I believe in but I desperately plead to the universe that your energy is infinite and in some way you won’t ever truly leave me. But even if you do, I will carry the memories and souvenirs and photos and videos of you for the rest of my existence, and farther if it’s possible.

I don’t know if it really happens, but just know if you’re out there somewhere waiting for me, I will come for you when it’s my time and cry the sweetest tears of joy to see you, touch you, and kiss you again, and we will never be apart. You have been the best part of my life and I will mourn the loss of your brightness for the rest of my days.

I’ll never let go.

I love you forever.

Snowflake

11.28.05 – 7.21.21

Emely Williams Photo

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