It hurts. Everything hurts. My head hurts from choking back sobs. My eyes hurt from the burning tears that escaped. My heart hurts from losing a companion and family member who will not be replaced.
Minnow came into our lives nearly five years ago. Back then, her name was Pepsi and she was a scruffy, mangy little mess.
Her previous owners brought her to the animal hospital where my wife worked. She had terrible ear and skin infections and rotting teeth. The owners didn’t have the money to treat her and the breeder said he would put her down because he wouldn’t be able to adopt out a sick dog. That’s when I got the call.
“Can I bring a dog home?” my wife asked.
She didn’t even have to explain the back story. The answer was yes.
We took her in and the first thing we did after getting her healthy was change her name. We knew it had to be something related to fishing. Initially we thought “Trout” but that didn’t quite fit. It was too big and we eventually settled on Minnow.
The name fit her size and stature, yet it belied her personality which was big enough to fill a house. Even at a whopping 5 pounds she demanded attention and she got it, whether it was from humans or dogs 10 times her size.
Minnow was a princess. On fishing trips she didn’t walk she was carried. In an old fishing creel that I slung over my shoulder, she rode in style. And when I pulled her out and put her down to take the dead weight off, she jumped up on my leg over and over till I relented and put her back in that creel.
In the boat, if I was the captain, Minnow was the admiral. As I worked the trolling motor she sat in the bow, enjoying the wind in her face.
Back in those days we had a tradition, Minnow and me. I would buy a bag of beef jerky before the trip started and we would share it throughout the day.
That changed a few years back. I was in Kansas City covering the Orioles in the ALCS when Stef texted me saying Minnow was incredibly sick. We learned Minnow had a health issue that meant she could no longer eat foods high in fat. And that meant no more beef jerky on fishing trips.
Having pulled her back from the brink one more time, we thought Minnow would be with us for years to come. She was there for our wedding, serving as a ring bearer alongside our other Yorkie, Scout. Minnow was there when we bought our first home together. She was there when we brought our daughter, Jane, home from the hospital.
Minnow treated Jane like she treated everyone else, licking her incessantly and demanding her attention. Stef and I joked that Jane’s first words would be “Minnow! No!”
Now those words no longer ring through our house.
Over the weekend we learned a tumor developed in Minnow’s bladder preventing her from going to the bathroom. There was nothing we could do to fix her this time. We made the heart breaking decision to put her down.
As we drove home from the animal hospital Saturday night for what would be our last night with our little Mims, as we called her, I pulled over at a convenience store. We decided that night she could have all her favorite foods that her low-fat diet had prevented her from having the last two years. In the store I bought a bag of beef jerky as I had done so many times before and we fed her pieces on the long, silent ride home.
We cuddled with Minnow that night and she slept between us as she did every night. The next day we had family and friends over to say goodbye to Minnow before taking her to the animal hospital for the last time.
In the quiet moments when no one else was around I held her tight and whispered, “I’m sorry Minnow. I’m sorry we couldn’t fix you this time.”
The procedure was quick. The healing time hasn’t been.
It’s the little things we miss. Minnow spinning in circles when we come home at the end of a long work day. Minnow running into the kitchen when she hears the rustle of a bag opening thinking it’s a treat for her. Minnow burrowing her way between us when we lay down in bed at night.
Our home seems empty now, a tribute to Minnow’s larger than life personality.
I wish I could take her on one last fishing trip. Instead, I take solace in this thought; that Minnow did make one last trip, the trip across the Rainbow Bridge and she did it with a belly full of beef jerky.
*Jeff Herman is the assistant news director at WMAR | ABC2. His main passion while not at work is fishing. This column is part of a series of columns he writes for our outdoors page. You can read more of his columns here. Follow him on Twitter @JeffABC2News and @TightLinesABC2