My mom texted me this morning saying, “Stanley is gone. My heart is broken.” We knew his time was coming, but that really doesn’t mean anything. He was 15 or so years old and the most gentle, friendly and loving dog. Stanley had cancer. For years. Stanley beat the shit out of that cancer, but it took its toll. I hugged and laid down with Stanley about two weeks ago while visiting my mom. He was blind and mostly deaf, but his sense of smell was still amazing. Letting him sniff me and seeing his body language change as recognition came on was wonderful to see. I’m rambling. I’m crying.
I remember when we got Stanley. We’d had Max, our Scottish Terrier for a few years. Max chose us as much as we chose Max. But Stanley? Stanley was a rescue. We rescued him from people I have the misfortune of being related to by blood. I don’t consider them family now—haven’t for years, but at the time, they were still close to us. I wasn’t there when my mom met Stanley. As best as I can recall from the stories, it was winter and my mom and stepfather were visiting my uncle. Stanley was chained out to the back of my uncle’s house. In the rain. A puppy then, he was shivering and not doing well, but not barking. Not complaining. My mom saw him and made my uncle bring him in. So Stanley was brought inside…and put in the cold, dark basement. This was a party or some such, but really? Who does that? i think they joked about selling Stanley—who was called Rocky at the time—to my mom if she wanted him. Even after leaving, my mom couldn’t get the thought out of her head of leaving that dog with those people. So she called them shortly thereafter and asked about the dog. My lovely relatives were kind enough to sell Stanley to my mother for $500 or so, even though they got him from their neighbor. Whatever. My mom didn’t blink, she just got the money, paid those people and rescued Stan from them.
To say Stanley was worth it would be an understatement. Hell, he’s probably cost tens of thousands of dollars in medical care over the years. Cancer, man. Fuck cancer. Totally worth it. Having Stanley in our family is just one of those things that was meant to be. It just couldn’t have been any other way. Same with Max. And the two of them together? I can’t even imagine them not having each other for the years they did. The pure, unfiltered love those dogs shared with each other, let alone us…it hurts my chest just thinking about them and how much they meant to us these last 16 or 17 years.
We lost Max four years ago this month. I think it’ll be four years next week, actually. I had a dream the other night. I dreamt, with such vividness and such clarity that I was just laying down with Max, hugging him and hanging out with him. I can remember what it was like to pet him and how his tail would wag and how he weighed and what it was like to be near him. And then I woke up. And it was so painful. And now I think about Stan and how we’d have to carry him down the stairs these last few months. And how thin he’d gotten. But how much his tail and his butt would shake when mom was around or when I came to see him and how you knew in spite of losing his best friend and in spite of being in pain, he was still happy. Happy to be loved and to keep loving us.
I don’t know what happens when we die, but I sure hope Stan and Max are hanging out together right now, chasing each other or laying next to each other and I sure hope I get to see them again.
Goodbye, Stanley. We love you and we miss you.