Letter to Arco - Hope It Reaches You In Heaven

February 28, 2017 | by Michelle Meier

The hardest thing in life is letting go of the ones we love. I had to do it over four years ago when losing my mom and now again with my baby boy--my dog Arco--whom I inherited from my mom when she died. Here's what helped me.

It's never easy losing a loved one.  There's no amount of time that will ever prepare you, no matter how often you've gone through loss and grief.

It all seemed so sudden.  My baby Arco had a cancer scare in December but it was all removed and he was given a clean bill of health.  He was back to running, jumping, licking and playing fetch like it never happened.

Then a couple of weeks ago, he began to slow down and one day I came home to find him standing and shaking in visible pain.  After a battery of tests that determined he had an enlarged heart and was internally bleeding, the vet declared him a "ticking time bomb".

I was forced to make an incredibly difficult decision, to relieve my baby of pain and suffering and to let him go.

I've found that writing to the people we love, even after they're gone, helps us process our emotions.  Here's the letter I wrote to him since he's been gone.

My dear Arco,

You were the sweetest, most loving doggie ever.  I think of the many nicknames I had for you… “Patient Poodle”, “Bark-o”, “Loverboy”, my “Handsome Man”, “Mr. Lickie Pants” and it makes me smile thinking of all the awesome memories we shared together.

I’m so proud of you for how well you acclimated to “condo living” and learned your “apartment voice” after moving out of the house and grieving the loss of our Mami together four years ago.

I hated leaving you to go to work those first couple of months, hearing you cry on the other side of the door.  But you eventually understood that I was always coming back home to you.  And there you’d be—every time—to greet me at the door, giving me kisses and flashing your big round eyes at me, hopeful for treats.

You never got cranky or antsy when I couldn’t take you out on a walk immediately.  You always waited so patiently for me.  I really would not have minded had you ever peed on our floors.

I sometimes wondered whether I was a good mother to you.  I know I worked a lot and sometimes rushed you on our walks to make it to the next class or client.

But your love remained unconditional.  You were quick to forgive and quick to love.  You were also quick to rebound after we had that cancerous tumor removed from your head.  You were back to playing fetch shortly thereafter like nothing had ever happened.

Humans can learn so much from you.

When your health deteriorated so suddenly, I was scared.  I was scared that you were in pain.  I was scared that I could lose you.  You were my saving grace when Mami died.  What will be my saving grace now that you’re gone?

It was the hardest decision of my life to end yours.  But I know in my heart that I did right by you and that I gave you the best departure possible, surrounded by our family, kissing and loving on you like the special soul that you are.

You stayed so brave through to the end, right until your last few minutes on this earth when you came up to us sitting at the table while I was signing the euthanization release waiver.  You looked at me, your tail wagging.  And that utterly killed me inside.  I know you were in pain though.  You tried so hard to be strong for your mommy.  But I could see it in your face and in the sudden and noticeable change in your body that you were struggling.

I tried so hard to be strong for you, too.  I didn’t want to cry when I knew we were sharing our final hours together.  I didn’t want for you to feel stressed.  When your eyes begin to fade in those final moments of life, I couldn’t hold it in anymore.  The tears burst forth until I felt I’d lost my breath, too. 

It broke my heart even more to see you leave this earth but I’m so happy I could be there with you and for you, to remind you that you’re safe and loved.  And now you’re reunited with our Mami in Heaven.

Everything here now reminds me of you.  When I’m sitting on the couch, I keep looking down thinking you’re laying where you usually are on the rug right beside me.  Every time I walk into the bedroom, I expect to see you snuggling in your bed but all that’s there now is a big, glaring empty hole.  No bed.  No Arco…my little “Snuggle Bunny."

Your food and water bowls I still left out along with the placemat that has your name on it.  I can’t bear to look at them.  Yet I can’t bear to get rid of them.

Whenever I open the balcony door to sit outside, I think of your hurried footsteps, your nails tapping across the tiled floor, wanting to see what’s going on in the world outside our windows.  And, of course, to stay close to your mommy as you always did.

You were always right behind me, following me wherever I went around the house.  When I turned around, I’d stumble over you.  Sometimes I’d get annoyed and tell you to sit.  But, really, I was touched by your commitment to staying by my side through everything.

I remember how your ears would perk up all cute when you spotted a boat speeding across the bay outside and I could hear the bark you’d try to stifle to honor your “apartment voice.”  And then sometimes you’d just let it rip—sudden, loud barking—and send me jumping out of my skin.

You always wanted to be close to “the party”.   Whenever I had friends over, you just had to be a part of the action.  And everyone adored you.  They said you were like a human inside a dog body.  A truly one-of-a-kind dog.

I wondered why you’d sit up tall and stare at me for hours sometimes when I was working from home or watching t.v.  You had this sort of “knowing” about you.

You filled my heart with so much joy over the years and I thank you for being such a good boy.  You fulfilled your mission of being here when I needed you most.  Now without you in my life, my heart is broken in a million pieces.  My schedule feels off.  It’s time to walk you now.  I keep forgetting you’re not here.  My “Baby Boy.”

It is so weird coming home now without you here.  Our home and my heart feel empty. 

But having gone through losing Mami, I know I’ll make it through this.  I know we’ll be one day reunited.  I want you to now that I’m ok.  I’m just letting myself cry a lot for you now because I love you and miss you to my core. 

Always and forever,

Your mommy

"You were quick to forgive and quick to love...Humans can learn so much from you."