“If you die on me, I'll never forgive you,” I said as I gently stroked his head.
The tears were running down my cheeks as I uttered the words. He looked at me and I could see pain in his eyes – the eyes that until so recently had sparkled and been full of life. Now they had lost their lustre and were dull, almost, but not quite, lifeless. He didn't cry though, unlike me.
We'd been best friends for many years while I'd grown up. He was definitely the oldest friend I had, in terms of knowing him for the longest period. Gee – we'd been friends even before I started school and that was seven years ago now.
We'd done so much together in that time. Played ball games, gone swimming, walking, climbing hills and wandering through valleys. Of course the best times were always the holidays when we could spend so much time together and those two weeks every year when we went to the seaside with my parents – those were the absolute best. I know you enjoyed them every bit as much as I did. Running along the sandy beach, dashing in and out of the sea, investigating the rock pools. There was always something to do to keep us amused and happy from early morning until dusk. And the sun nearly always seemed to shine during those two weeks.
The great thing was that I could share all my secrets with you and not once did you ever tell anybody even one of them. Your lips were sealed. I could tell you my hopes and my fears, usually when we lay together in my room at night. Or sometimes, on a bright moonlight night, we'd look out of the window at the stars. Just you and me in companionable silence, gazing into the infinity of space and wondering at the enormity of it.
Of course there were a few sad times along the way. Not really sad, I suppose, but times when one or the other of us had done something wrong and life wasn't as good as it normally was. Those were the times when we really needed each other. You never let me down in that respect and were always there for me. I just hope you feel I was similarly always there for you. We never asked each other that question; just took it for granted I guess. For sure we never fell out with one another in all those years and that has to be some sort of a record, doesn't it?
But now, what am I going to do without you? I've got lots of pictures and a few videos of you, many just of you on your own and some of both of us together, that I can look at after you're gone, so you'll still be here – sort of I suppose. And you'll always be in my heart and in my memories, but life is never going to be the same and that is why I can't forgive you – at least not now.
When you're a little kid you don't think about death and dying. Life seems to stretch before you for ever and ever and each day is full of new discoveries. You are so busy learning new things and having fun that you don't have room for thinking that sometime that it is all going to stop. My mother did try to explain it to me once, a couple of years ago – 'the law of diminishing percentages' she called it. How when you're ten years old the next year is going to be a whole ten percent of your previous life, but when you're fifty that next year is just two percent. I didn't fully understand it when she tried to explain it – maths isn't my best subject at school I will admit. I decided that perhaps when I got to fifty I would!
Now, suddenly, I can see what she meant. I thought you were going to be there like forever, or at least until I went away to university when I am eighteen. You'd only be a couple of years older than me then. But your percentages aren't the same as mine because dogs don't live as long as we humans do.
I suppose I should have noticed the signs over the last few months. You weren't so keen to go for long walks or to chase after balls in the garden. You wanted to spend more time sleeping and it started to become an effort to climb the stairs to my bedroom or even jump on my bed. So, yeah I knew you were slowing down a bit, but it was a very hot summer and nobody felt like doing too much.
But then you started to be sick and that was when I should have started to worry, but I didn't. I thought it was just a tummy upset due to something you'd eaten – after all you always were a great one for finding things to eat while we were out. Remember that time last summer when you found an ice cream cone on the beach? Boy that went down a treat! The fact that it belonged to the kid sitting next to us didn't bother you at all, did it?
It was after mum and dad had taken you to that place you've never liked to visit, when I overheard them talking while they thought I was upstairs. They were talking very quietly and mum especially seemed upset, not like her normal happy self.
“Should we tell him?” I heard her say to dad.
“Perhaps in a few days. I don't think we have to make the decision yet” he replied.
“I think I'll get a copy of 'Rainbow Bridge' for him. It might help – a bit.”
Of course I had to go upstairs, switch on my computer and look up Rainbow Bridge. And that was when I knew what was going to happen. That was a couple of weeks ago, and after that you got worse very quickly.
“If you're not waiting for me on the other side of that bridge, I'll never forgive you.” I said, as I gently stroked his head.