Heart of the Matter

With all this kitten talk, I realize I have never filled you in on what became of the Lovely Rita.

In preparation for the long trip from There to Here, I took her to the vet. Dr. Jill said she wouldn’t recommend putting a dog of Rita’s vintage and dignity through the horrors of being packed up and treated like baggage, but she wouldn’t refuse me the certificate saying Rita was healthy enough to travel, either. Because Rita is in excellent shape, even for a dog far junior to her.

This put some doubts in my mind, but I went to tell Actual Owner that Rita and I were off on a new adventure together. He was visibly shaken, and asked if I would consider leaving her with him. Even a heart as stony as mine melted when he said, “I was there at the beginning of her life, and I’d like to be there at the end, too.” Because we both knew that he’d never see her again if she left with me.

The truth is, she is his dog. She spent the first ten years of her life with him, and only three with me. He’s home, I’m the summer camp.

I won the battle, but I lost the war.

So I did the right and painful thing. Actual Owner came over one evening, and I loaded him up with all her accessories, things I had acquired for her over the years, ranging from her travel water bottle (she was the best travel companion: always happy to go anywhere, never bored) to her beloved bed to her hip treats (prevention!). I also gave him all her vet records. He thanked me for taking such good care of her, and put on her leash.

I hugged her good-bye, burying my face in her thick fur once last time. She walked off with her guy, tail wagging, looking up at him with love I’ve never seen on her face for anyone else.

It was the right thing to do, but it was one of the hardest I’ve ever done.

Now that I’ve been in Oakland for six months, I am completely sure I did the right thing. She would not have been happy here with the constantly barking dogs next door, the complete lack of parks, having to walk on a leash on cement sidewalks with shopping cart people instead of being Queen of the Dog Park, running free with the sun on her fur.

And her extended vacation at Camp Suzy was not in vain. Her Actual Owner definitely appreciates her more now. He takes her everywhere, from the store to the Tai Chi classes he teaches, and she is happy and healthy. I will always miss her, but I’m happy she’s happy. And I’ll always have the memory of my Dog Days with the Lovely Rita.

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