It was time to say goodbye to Chopper, my tiny Toy Fox Terrier.
I’d held off as long as I could and almost backed out. But when I decided to bury him in the backyard, it helped ease the aching. This was one last thing I could do for him, and this way, I wouldn’t have to leave my little boy behind.
I drove to the vet clinic with Chopper in my lap the way he always rode. When we got there, I told Dr. West, “You saved his life once.”
She nodded and said, “He has a sweet soul.”
Eight years earlier on Super Bowl Sunday, I was walking around the neighborhood with Chopper on his leash. We had almost made it home when a muscular boxer charged from his yard, grabbed Chopper’s neck in his massive jaws, and started shaking him.
It took the dog’s owner several minutes to make him let go. While a neighbor ran for towels and a bag of ice, I pulled my phone from my pocket and called the doctor, then sprinted to my house, grabbed the car keys, and yelled for Emily.
Doc met us at the clinic and worked all night, flushing out the punctures that encircled his neck. “He won’t die?,” I asked her before I left.
She hesitated, “I don’t know.”
Now, eight years later, Chopper was back with Doc, blind, deaf and senile, almost 115 in human years.
I knew when I chose him he wasn’t immortal, but even knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have done it differently.
While he lay on the table, waiting for the sleeping potion to end his life, I rubbed his ears and talked to him although Doc said he wouldn’t know anything. I thought about the 2x2-inch picture that’s been on my refrigerator for more than 16 years. Six-week-old Chopper was smaller than the magnolia leaf he was standing on. Above the snapshot are seven little tiles with carefully chosen words, “black & white puppy is my honey.”
His first collar was the kind you’d see on a fierce looking Rottweiler, black with silver spikes all around, but only 2 inches in diameter.
As he grew, the walls in my house looked like the decor of a girl’s dorm room, covered with photos of Chopper in his hoodie, his Auburn football jersey, his Harley cap and jacket, his tuxedo and his Christmas suit.
We made lots of trips to Kiesel Park where he ran the obstacle course. And when I watched Auburn football, he’d hide under the couch, because he knew I’d be yelling soon.
Chopper slept with me all those years, and his goodnight ritual always ended with him touching the tiny tip of his tongue to the tip of my nose.
I brought him home and buried him in the grave I’d dug earlier that morning, happy that I’d decided to keep him close by.
When theologian R. C. Sproul was asked if dogs go to heaven, his answer was long and well thought out. He ended by saying, “Beautiful passages of Scripture tell us about the lion and the lamb and other animals being at peace with one another. Whenever heaven is described, though it may be in highly imaginative language, it is a place where animals seem to be present. I would like to think that we will see our beloved pets again someday.”
And I agree with anthropologist Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, “It wouldn’t be heaven if there were no dogs there.”
Mary Belk lives in Auburn and writes a column for the Opelika-Auburn News.