My dog died the day after Christmas in 2016, his last full day of life on Earth. He was 17, a “Westie-Something-Something,” cotton-white and very fluffy, kind of like a small walking cloud but well-groomed. His name was Homer: after not the great blind poet from antiquity but the incompetent nuclear power plant manager from “The Simpsons.”
The name fit his goofy personality. Despite his modest size, Homer always seemed under the impression he was much bigger. He’d bark at strangers, but then run in the other direction the moment they moved closer to him. He had all the makings of a great guard dog, except he was not actually useful. Homer also loved to insert himself into conversations. And any time he saw a group of three or more people in a bunch, he’d make himself a part of the group, squeezing in between a couple of people’s legs, as if he had something essential to hear and to contribute as well.
Since Dec. 26, 2016, memories like this flash through my head constantly. That morning, my mom woke me up and told me blankly, “Homer is dying.” Her eyes were watery and a little red. I felt my pulse rocket upward as I followed her out. Homer was half-conscious, still trying to shake off what looked like a morning seizure.
My sister, mom and I were all home for the holidays. We took Homer to the vet. I seized only on the essential phrases coming out of my vet’s mouth: “poor quality of life,” “in pain,” “organ failure,” “poor teeth,” all enough to know what it all meant.