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For a Boston Terrier nearing the age of 15, we knew Champ was pushing the limit of dog time on earth. His heart was kept beating by three twice daily medications that had become less and less effective. This morning, he could barely walk down the hall. He looked at us through tired, foggy eyes as if to say, I’m ready. The veterinarian had already told us we needn’t schedule an appointment when the time came, but to just come in.

While my boyfriend has raised Champ since he was a puppy, I only came along four years ago. During this time, Champ and I have gone on jogs in the park together, shook nervously in a closet during thunderstorms together, made meals together – well, I cooked and he cleaned the floor with his tongue as I invariably always spilled something.

The little guy has stolen my seat on the sofa and drooled on my bed pillow. Champ has tripped me countless times, so much so that I joked he was plotting my demise, especially when he got under my feet when I walked near the top of the stairs. Of course he got under my feet wherever I walked, always wanting to be near, I’m sure, because of the possibility I’d drop something he could retrieve.

Oh, those stairs! That’s one of my favorite Champ-times, not the tripping but the kissing. Whenever I’d come up them, he’d be sitting or lying at the top watching me. I’d get close and lean in so we’d be nose-to-nose. He’d sniff my breath, then lick my face. I’d pat or kiss his little head before stepping on up.

Today, I went downstairs to wake my daughter and when I came back up, sure enough, there was Champ. I knew it’d be the last time I’d see him there. He was too tired to follow me, so I was able to get my phone and walk back down a few steps. I then turned and took a photo of him with my daughter’s dog in the background observing us. Maybe King was taking mental notes to take over Champ’s business.

Later, I leaned over the metal table in the veterinary clinic and held his small black and white lumpy form as the doctor inserted the needle. I told Champ that it was okay for him to go on and join Lucky and Molly and Bandit and Baxter and Bootsie and PollyAnna and Salty and Chief, and…that’s as far as I got when the vet placed his stethoscope on Champ and told us his heart had stopped.

Yes, on this side it has, I thought, but where he has gone, I know that it beats strong and young. Shutting my moist eyes, I imagined him sitting atop a glorious, winding staircase before he darted off across a lush lawn to lick up the purposely dropped crumbs of a divine banquet.

Bye, Champ! Kisses!