I lost my beloved Labrador at the beginning of the month due to complications with late-stage lymphoma. Stanley was a month shy of being 11 years old. From diagnosis to his passing, we had 2 weeks. Two glorious weeks of eating whatever the hell he wanted. Two weeks to cherish my soulmate. Two weeks of couch cuddles and slow, cold walks around the block.

On his last day, I made him his favorite mini apple lattice pie. He got a cheeseburger and fries. We went on a short loop walk in his favorite park. He lay in the center of our living room among the baby’s toys, listening to the extended family talk. He always kept track to make sure we were all safe. He left the room to lie down on his bed in the den, where he began having breathing complications and shaking.

Stanley passed peacefully that evening at the emergency vet. I cradled and kissed his head, listing every person who ever loved him. My mom rubbed his back.

As a survivor, I must bear the burden of unconditional love into the interminable future and carry the wellsprings of joy and pain that his memory evokes.

The posts for the foreseeable future will be about our life together. I’ve revised some old pieces as an attempt to write my way through grief, but it is insufficient.

I wrote the below in Fall of 2019. Just Stan and me building a new life in this big old rental.

labrador retriever at 3:23 AM

the dog whines to go outside
i walk slow from my bedroom
down the steep steps
and he clumsily follows

“don’t knock me down
the goddamn stairs!”
i stage whisper
– he snorts

we emerge
into crisp Cleveland
he relieves himself
on the hydrangea bush

amber streetlights
illuminate the leaves
splaying patterns
across my pale limbs

cool air carries
close scents:
hot piss
a distant skunk

he smells the wind
and comes back inside
to drink water like a moose

my mind seeks
the gentle tones
of human voices
rustling in the treetops

i whisper back
to the breeze
“Stan’s a good boy”
and pet his velvet ears

he is already asleep
unfathomably peaceful
a cozy, rounded-corner
of blackness