Sorry that I’ve been absent from this blog for most of this week. I’ve been absent from most things.
My husband and I had a loss Wednesday morning when our dog passed away. It was quick, which was a good thing, but it was a terrible shock for us.
My husband and I don’t have children yet, but Newton was our child, our boy. He acted like a very hairy five-year-old with a limited vocabulary. He even loved opening presents at Christmas. He went just about everywhere with us that dogs could go, and his absence has been very difficult to deal with.
Newtie is also the inspiration behind my Sir Newton books (the picture is the promotional photo we gave to kids at book signings), and when he died, I couldn’t imagine working on another book. I had a lot of plans for these books. During the last year, I’ve focused on my novels in an effort to get those moving along with an agent and publishers, so the next book in the series, Sir Newton’s Color Me Florida, has been sitting in my computer mostly done. I planned to finish it when I had more time, and I planned to expand the series to every state in the U.S. as well as every Caribbean island and then the world, each one following the same pattern as the first two and providing funds to local children’s charities in each area the books describe. With my real Sir Newton gone, I couldn’t imagine doing another book. But my husband said, “You have to keep doing them for him.”
You see, one of the amazing things about Newtie was how happy he was. He was always wagging his tail, even the day before he died, he was wagging his tail, bright eyed, tongue hanging out. The amazing thing about this is that Newtie had a lot of health problems throughout his life, but, to quote his vet, “to look at him, you’d never know he had been sick.”
Newton was born with a herniated diaphragm; part of his intenstines rested in his chest cavity, keeping his right lung partly closed. When we adopted him, Newtie had been on the streets of South Central, Los Angeles, for a few months, we estimate. He had horrible mange and a rotting ear (we have pictures and they’re not pretty). He was three days away from being euthanized at the pound, because no one would adopt a dog in this state, when a rescue worker with the Much Love organization picked him up. The group paid for all his vet bills to get him fixed up then found him a foster home, which happened to be some friends of ours. I went with our friend to pick him up, a hairless dog except for a little white mohawk with the best and most friendly personality of any dog I had ever met in a situation like that. I was immediately smitten.
Newton quickly became a part of our family, and was with us for around five years. He enlived our lives more than I can describe, and everyone who met him called him “the happy dog.”
Last year, he was diagnosed with cancer. I prayed and prayed for him, for my boy, and God answered my prayers. After his first round of chemo, Newt was in remission the following morning. He had had tumors the size of golf balls under his mouth, but when we woke up the next morning, they were competely gone. Our vet had told us it would take a couple weeks to see a difference, best case scenario a few days. But he was in full remission the morning after.
We continued his full treatment and, as happens with chemo, Newtie lost a lot of hair again. But he started growing his hair back two months before he was done with his chemo treatment, which the vet kept saying was “amazing.”
His vet continued to be impressed with Newt’s recovery, and his follow up tests since he finished chemo were clean. Then a couple weeks ago, Newtie started to show signs of something being off. He was still wagging his tail and squeeking his toys and running up and down the stairs like a puppy, though. On Tuesday, I took him to the vet for some tests. They thought maybe his cancer had returned, and the next day, I had planned to get the results and see where we went from there. That night, I prayed again. I prayed and prayed that God would take care of him, to take care of my boy. After Newton passed away around 6:30 the next morning, my husband said God did answer my prayers; He did take care of Newton. He made it quick and relatively painless. That is a comfort. Newton was a very special dog — and I’m quoting my vet, so you know I’m not being biased (although I don’t mind if you think I am biased, because I am) — and he had had enough problems in his life. He didn’t deserve any more pain.
Comfort as it was, however, it’s still very hard to so suddenly have him not in our lives.
So, I’ve been pretty much feeling in a coma for the last few days. I had emails sitting in my inbox waiting to be answered. I haven’t done anything on my books. I haven’t even looked at my blog. Then, yesterday, my husband and I were talking about Newt — again — and remembering how happy he was all the time despite all the hardships he had to deal with during his life. And it was then that I realized that Newton was much better than me. I have none of the health problems he had, and although I’m generally very happy, I have my worries, concerns, over really small things. When Newton died, I didn’t feel like doing anything, not even one of my favorite things: writing. I want to be a novelist full time, to tell stories all the time, but when he died, I didn’t care about it. It just seemed like it didn’t matter.
But remembering Newt’s tail swinging back and forth, and his shining eyes as his pink tongue hung out of his mouth, his running around and squeeking his toy even though he only had one and a half good lungs, I realized that remembering is much better than mourning. Remembering all the wonderful things he did is the best way to honor him. And to aim to be as happy as him no matter what is the best way to be.
My husband encouraged me to return the emails I needed to return today, some from prospective agents, so I did, with images of Newtie wagging his tail at my feet.
Things will never be the same without our Newtie, our Sir Newton (who often lived up to his pen name), but I’m getting back on my horse, so to speak, and trying to remember that he wouldn’t worry or be sad; he’d smile and wag his tail.
This blog post is for him.