I can’t believe it but he’s gone. Carter, my adorable dog of nearly nine years died yesterday. I already miss him.
He wasn’t eating. Paul mentioned half-eaten bowls of food while I was gone. And this has happened before. Anytime I leave, Carter’s appetite gets very small. Dutifully doing his best to cheer things up on Via Nizza, Paul went to the store half a dozen times, coming home with half a dozen different types of dog food, offering a new flavor when the most recent seemed to have quickly gone out of favor. But it was a long visit. By the time I came home this weekend Carter had lost a lot of weight. So much so that he wasn’t his frisky friendly self when I finally arrived. No signature growl-whine, no rubbing against my legs. Just a brief and shaky appearance before he lied down again on the living room floor. Maybe he’s just weak from not eating, we thought. I hoped. When I noticed his trouble walking though, I called the vet.
Then we were off. Together Carter and I navigated the Roman streets in search of the 24-hour clinic our vet recommended. GPS guiding us, scooters zipping by, one last adventure.
Three hours of x-rays, ultrasounds and blood tests resulted in a diagnosis, but not a good one. What we thought was a broken heart turned out to be the final stages of lymphoma. While I cried, the doctor explained that there was nothing she could do. He wasn’t eating because his body was too sick, not because I’d been gone. In fact, he seemed to have waited for me. But now he was suffering, his vitals were shaky and she recommended putting him down. So, I stroked his head, held his paw, and told him one last time, “I’m right here. I won’t leave you.” He tucked his head down and drifted off. Then he was gone.
I knew it wasn’t good as we headed out the door yesterday. I knew that big dogs rarely make it past 10 years old. But it was still stunningly sad.
There are things that make every pet unique and Carter had many. I’ll miss his eyebrows raising one at a time, laying his head on a toy-turned-pillow, letting Phoebe pull his fur, whiskers and ears and most of all I’ll miss his pep. It was a delight to have someone get so excited every time I walked in the room. Even if it was only a brief trip from the kitchen.
And that dog has seen me through many things: New York apartments, boyfriends and bad dates, dinner parties and jobs. On 9/11 he single-handedly cheered up the New York Fire Department and a division of the Marine Corps as the young soldiers petted and played with him on the sidewalks of Fifth Avenue. Carter drove down to Tennessee with Colleen and I when it was time to work for HGTV. And thank heaven he did, since I knew not a soul there. The first time he saw a deer in our two-acre yard, he just cocked his head to the side, staring curiously. A city dog to be sure. Then it was back to New York, to Washington and eventually to Rome. We’ve hiked, jogged and camped, but most of all, we walked. If there was a pedometer to record our trips together it would only need to say, “a lot”. And it would probably be covered with dog hair.
I’m sorry that Phoebe won’t know him more, but I’ll tell her about him for sure. It’s the end of an era. And it was such a good one.