Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Our Mutual Friend (not about the book) (09/15/11)
TITLE: The neighbor's dog
By Nadine Clark
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On hot summer days my parents would relax under the carport. Dad was struggling with various ailments and did not ambulate well. He was content to sit outside, munching in snacks, especially 3D Doritos. It wasn’t long after Trisha’s death when Caesar meandered over and cautiously padded up to dad and mom. Dad offered him the 3D chips. Soon our neighbor’s dog became a regular outdoor fixture at the family homestead.
One afternoon my father felt ill and required medical attention. Our neighbors happened to be EMTs so they were the first to arrive on the scene. Caesar ran in right after them. They tried shooing him out but my mom assured them it was fine. It was from that day on I felt we were stealing the neighbor’s dog. My dad felt as if Caesar knew how much mom and he needed the companionship of a beloved animal. Some days were difficult and long caring for an ill spouse and parent. Caesar was a wonderfully loving and gentle dog. We couldn’t have stolen a more perfect dog to ease the burden of long-term elder care.
There came a time when we could no longer care for Dad at home. It was a heart wrenching decision. Sadly Dad required more care than our large family was able to provide. Caesar filled mom’s days with company and purpose as she adjusted to living in a home without her spouse. Dad, however, was struggling emotionally. He broke down one day and said how much he missed Caesar. I would have taken that personally if I hadn’t known how much my parents loved their animals. I decided to check into how I could get Caesar up to visit my dad. The nursing home was very accommodating; all I needed was proof Caesar was current on all his vaccinations. I would have to go ask the neighbors if I could have a copy of the record. They were very gracious and gave me what I needed. Caesar himself was a trooper on the visits. He became an instant celebrity. Dad looked so proud of his neighbor’s dog. It remains one of my most precious memories of my dad. Dad passed away less than a year later.
At this point Caesar was a permanent fixture in the home. He got on well with the cats and tolerated the scores of grandchildren. He was my mom’s constant companion. She considered him sent by God. She still fed him Oreos. However, he began showing signs of aging. We lovingly cared for him. He loyally cared for mom.
My mother became ill and required temporary care at a local facility. Caesar was also getting weaker by the day. We painfully made the decision to euthanize him. My mom knew in her heart it was time and she wanted to see him one last time. I remember struggling to get him in the van. When we arrived, I could see mom and my sister sitting outside in a shady spot. I opened the side door and prepared to assist Caesar. My mom began to call him and that dog jumped up like a puppy. He bound out of the van and ran to her. I felt like the Cruella Deville of all daughters. How could we have been thinking of putting Caesar down when he acted so healthy and spry? They had a wonderful visit, mom and Caesar. However, she knew her dog and his true condition.
After that visit, I made one last trek to the neighbor’s home. I asked for permission to have Caesar put to sleep. I told them they would never know what their dog meant to our entire family. They were truly good neighbors. I told them we never meant to steal their dog.
On a hot summer day in August Caesar peacefully died in my arms. My husband and nephew dug a grave in our backyard that would be Caesar’s resting place. It was purposefully dug between the two property lines.
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