I remember that time 11 years ago when Art and I were visiting in Hawaii with our kids.
My brother, Dennis was frustrated and unhappy that his wife and three sons wanted a dog.
"They don't understand how hard it would be to take care of a dog in a small apartment," he moaned. "They'd better not expect me to be the one to take care of him."
Despite his protests he was outnumbered and the family somehow made room for Pugslee.
As it turned out, he was right. He did end up being the one to take care of Pugslee most of the time.
Dennis and I did not have a dog when we were growing up. Our dog, Jimmy died before we entered kindergarten.
I don't think Dennis knew much about owning a dog, but he learned fast. He ended up being the one who took Pugslee out for most of his walks and bathroom breaks. Pugslee was there for all their joys and heartbreaks. My sister-in-law, Nancy remembered that when she lost her parents, Pugslee seemed to understand and comfort her by placing his head on her knees, looking mournfully into her eyes and letting her know he was there for her.
"He's actually the best dog," Dennis would tell me seriously. "He's really smart."
Several months ago, something seemed to be wrong. Pugslee was fat when he was younger and the joke was he looked more like a little piglet. Now he was thin, his bowels were watery and he kept losing weight. The vet prescribed medicine, but eventually they found he had stomach cancer.
The vet said they would know when it would be time to say goodbye. Dennis spent a lot of time perfecting the technique to catch the watery stools that came spraying out.
"It's not time yet," he kept telling me. "His tail still wags when he sees me. He's happy. Pugslee is not suffering. I know he still enjoys being with us."
They fed him his favorite foods. They gave him loads of extra attention all the while cleaning up after him and airing out the apartment.
This past Sunday, Dennis and Nancy walked in with large bags of premium dog food and a clean doggie dish.
And it hit me.
"We had to let him go yesterday," Nancy said with eyes glistening. "He stopped eating for a couple of days. We had to take him in. We were all there with him. Bear and Cody came too."
My brother, usually the stoic said, "It hurts too much."
"Do you have somebody you can give the dog dish to?" Nancy asked.
"No," I answered. "I think I'll keep it. We might get a dog someday."
"No," said Art. "Absolutely not! We have no room for a dog. We travel too much. I refuse to be the one to end up taking care of it. Don't even think about it."