Pulling Out My Hair

By Billy Fong

elmo2_sA few days before Christmas in 1996, my mom told me my brother and I would receive our gift early.

She whispered,“Even though I said the gift is for both of you, this gift is really yours.”

I thought, “Wow, take that Taylor (my brother), this gift isn’t yours and you have no idea.”

We sat on the couch facing the window; we heard footsteps coming up the stairs from the basement. Then the clunk of something placed on the floor and the sound of a cage opening. I turn around and running towards us is a small white and brown-spotted Jack Russell Terrier.

I named him Elmo, after a Visa commercial I saw once.

Lucy was not impressed that day. Up to this point she was the only dog in the house and had been for years. Lucy was a yellow lab crossed with a golden retriever. She was sweet but hated to interact with other dogs.

But as time moved on, Lucy and Elmo became inseparable.

Lucy and I grew up together. We were the same age, and it was always my mom, Lucy and me (my parents were divorced), until my brother, my stepfather and Elmo came.

When Elmo came into the mix, it was like Lucy’s aging reversed. Lucy was more energetic and playful.

I had friends growing up, but the friendship you develop with your dogs is different.

Lucy was a listener. She was tame, she knew when to console you, and she knew when the right time to play was. She chased squirrels, she chased birds, she chased me if I had the ball.

When I was four I decided to play Safari with Lucy and drew zebra stripes on her with permanent marker. Mom didn’t like that.

Years later, the puppy that Elmo brought out in her had faded. When Lucy and I were both 14 (see, we literally grew up together), Lucy lying down would become Lucy falling down. Her legs couldn’t ease her down comfortably. Her eyes were cloudy and her face white from what used to be a vibrant yellow.

She started having seizures. She would start down the stairs to the basement to my room but a seizure would hit and she would fall down the flight of stairs. It was horrible to watch her in pain and being able to do nothing. It was nothing that could be fixed, the vet said she was just old.

There was nothing we could do. But I was in denial; I thought she’d live forever.

It was a week after my fifteenth birthday in February when my mom sat me down and through her tears told me that by the end of the month, we would have to end Lucy’s suffering.

The decision was out of my hands.

I dreaded the end of the month, and whenever I wasn’t at school, I was at home with Lucy. Not a minute went by in that house that Lucy wasn’t by my side.

I remember the day.

It was the morning, my brother and my stepfather said their goodbyes to Lucy.

My mother and I took her to the van, I had to help her get into the vehicle since she just simply couldn’t herself anymore.

And I went back to the house and grabbed Elmo and brought him out. This sounds extremely naïve, but I think he knew, and I think Lucy knew too.

It was a quiet drive. It took about several attempts to get out of the car at the animal hospital. My mom would open the door then close it; both of us didn’t want to go in.

When we made it to the room, the vet gave us a few minutes.

We helped Lucy lie down, we petted her, we hugged her, and told her we loved her. And I thanked her for being my best friend for as long as I could remember. She could barely see us through her clouded eyes, but she knew we were there.

Just like years ago, it was my mom, Lucy and me.

The vet came back in. I wanted to run away with Lucy. But I knew that even if I could somehow plan an escape, Lucy couldn’t run. She could barely walk.

I held Lucy’s head on my lap. Her head became heavier, her eyes slowly closed, and I cried. It was the hardest moment of my life.

Elmo is now 13. He has a stress-induced disease and is diabetic, his eyes are cloudy and his brown spots have faded.

When he was ten (two years after Lucy had gone), Lola, a Golden Doodle, was added to the family. Elmo was not impressed. But like what he did for Lucy, Lola had done for him.

It was like Elmo was running out of that cage again in 1996, playful and full of energy.

As Elmo gets older, he gets weaker, but he’s still a stubborn bastard. The vet gave him six months to live…a year and a half ago.

What is it about these animals that make such an important connection for us?

It’s simple, we love them. But this love is not like one between husband and wife, or mother and child.

It is the love of a friendship.

One that’s pure, everlasting and a love that can never break

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