I didn’t expect that I’d be able to come home for spring break, but my mom received her unemployment check last-minute that let us afford my plane ticket to Seattle on Sunday.

There are two main reasons I’m here, and those are to reassure my mom that I’m OK after getting beat up, and to see my Sammy, my dog. He’s insanely important to me, and he’s not doing so well. His back legs have been operated on before, when he was seven, and now that he’s 13 he is really experiencing their limitations. Since I was last home over Christmas, he has gone from being able to accompany me on the mile-long stroll up and down the hill near my house to being barely able to walk around the block. In three months, things have changed in his shaggy terrier body that force me to realize that he isn’t forever.

When I moved away for college, leaving my dog was by LIGHT YEARS the most difficult thing for me to do. Plenty of sad things have happened in my life, but that one took the prize for emotional intensity. I sobbed for hours, two days in a row, before I packed the car for my California move. I think moving away forced me to recognize prematurely the impermanence of my childhood pet, my sibling-replacement and best friend. His quick transition into old-manhood is less distressing than it might have been had I not been forced to say goodbye to him once already. I can accept where he is now, and enjoy the time I get to spend with him, knowing that it means a lot for both of us. Sammy defines so much of my childhood that his waning health indicates the fading of my early years.

In addition to the general shittiness of the week following my attack, my divorced parents were in the midst of a long argument about what’s best for Sammy, and I was on the receiving end of all the updates. My mom’s house, where I live when I’m not at school, is a skinny unit up two huge flights of stairs, which are now fully impossible for Sammy to tackle. My dad, on the other hand, rents a room from a sweet older woman in a house with a very limited amount of stairs. My dad is set on convincing my mom that Sammy is OK, and that he takes such good care of him, so she must be doing something wrong since he isn’t doing well at her place…but then he says he won’t let Sammy live with him. My mom just started a new job that requires her to cross town and be gone for 10 hours a day, so she just can’t take care of my dog.

I’m SO effing sick of thinking about this whole conundrum between my parents over Sammy, but my being home with my mom is in a way a relief, because I get to see first-hand what’s going on with him, instead of trying to discern the truth between my parents’ opposing observations. Here’s the truth: my mom wasn’t exaggerating. Sammy’s not doing so well.

This whole debacle with my dad trying to convince me my mom’s making shit up, and my mom dramatically announcing sad news about how Sammy fell down the stairs the other day, is happening the week I’m trying to get my mind together after getting randomly punched on the street. The last thing I wanted to do was to be in the middle of all of this to have to be sad about yet another thing. I told them that all I wanted was what would be the most comfortable arrangement for Sammy, and that if they don’t do something comfortable for him soon, I’m taking him with me back to California. I know that wouldn’t be ideal for him, as there are also a lot of stairs at my apartment, but at least he’d be with me.

For now, I’m in Seattle for a couple more nights, and I get to be with the little old guy. I can tell he’s not in the happiest place. We’ve both gone through some shit the last couple of weeks, and being together is helping both of us. I’m trying to remind him that it’s OK to get old and that he shouldn’t feel bad about it, and he’s reminding me that I’m OK after everything that’s happened. Simply by being in the same room together, we’re reassuring each other about life, because that’s what best friends do. ♦