I remember riding home on the tube over 15 years ago, Harley, a tiny bundle of cuteness tucked first in Arron's lap and then mine as we argued like two year olds over who got to hold her.
"How about Dolby?" Arron asked me, trying on a name as he looked down at her. "Dolby! Dolby!" Harley seemed oblivious.
"Maybe" I said, trying to sound encouraging.
But when we got home, and Harley began her nippy barking at the low rumble of a motorcycle, I finally made my suggestion for her name. "What about Harley?" I had an ulterior motive. Arron hadn't remembered telling me that he would love to name our first child Harley. I figured if we named the dog Harley, our first born would be spared. Of course the plan nearly backfired and we almost had a both a dog AND a child named Harley.
During one of my first walks with Harley (after her 4 month shots) in our London neighborhood's Normand Park, near Fulham Broadway, Harley the size of a large bunny tugged on the leash ahead of me. At the park, a black dog began running towards us fast, not leaving me enough time to pick her up before the dog, a pit bull, pounced on her. After what seemed like 10 minutes of shaking, despite the dog's owner beating it with a tennis racket, Harley was dropped, her tongue lolling out of her mouth, her chest ripped to ribbons. I was in shock. A man came up to me and told me he could drive me to our vet. I didn't hesitate long enough to get the pit bull owner's info, and was suddenly in the car of a stranger. When my vet was closed, he drove me downtown to the emergency vet and waited for an hour while Harley was seen. When he could no longer wait, he handed me ten pounds for a cab ride home. I was stunned at his kindness, and at my stupidity for being so trusting. The pit bull's owner was never charged and we were left with a thousand pound vet bill.
She took weeks to recover, but she did and became the happy, always smiling, quick-to-flop-onto-her-back-in-order-to-present-you-with-her-belly-for-a-pat dog who won hearts with her kind and patient temperament. She would let babies grab her ears, barely flinching, knowing that they would soon be the source of dropped cookies. When my kids were high-chair age she got porky, and I rarely had to mop. Carter used her for a pillow while he drank his bottles. Olivia began calling her "Bear."
Arron was her master, while I was her keeper and slave. We all knew it. For every major event in Harley's life, it was me that was there. When she was hit by a car, it was me who drove her to the vet thinking she was dead in the back of the car and begging her to live. When Arron died and she mourned him by refusing to walk into the park, it was me who pulled her leash, or carried her. And now that she can't get up, it is me who picks her up when she barks, who cleans her when she has had another accident, and it will be me with her tomorrow, when the vet will come to our house.
It took my mother-in-law coming to tell me objectively that it was time. It is time. She is miserable and I can't prolong it no longer. And while the relief will be palpable, the loss will be acute.