Were it not for my dog, Yukon, I would be overweight, dead or both. So when it came time to put him down I was afraid not just for him but for the both of us.
We had just celebrated our 10th anniversary in February. It was significant for two reasons: unlike so many houseplants I had not killed him, and I got him the same year I tested positive.
Yukon was not like those purses on leashes you see prancing around Yaletown in designer clothes. I named him Yukon Jack after the black sheep of Canadian liquor and he lived up to his title.
He chased motorcycles and dogs that fetched; he barked when I sneezed and I once rescued him from the side of a sand dune on a nude beach – naked.
I could not truthfully call him the best dog in the world, but more people knew his name than mine.
The hardest part in the weeks leading up to my decision was putting on my best Jackie Kennedy face in the waiting room at Urban Animal Hospital. Without fail, some regular customer from my resume of jobs would be sitting adjacent to me with their far less terminal cat; a species I simply refuse to recognize as “pet.” Sorry.
Once I knew in my heart that it was time, selfish thoughts started running through my mind, like: “I can move!” and “I can stop collecting plastic bags.”
I wondered whom I was doing this for. When the vet agreed with me, I thought there would be some peace of mind but it still felt “too soon.”
His last night on earth a friend drove us through Stanley Park one final time. There he found an abandoned beef kabob. “Don’t eat that!” I commanded.
“I think we’re past the point of caution, Tony,” said my friend.
“Force of habit.”
“We should teach him a new trick.”
Our last walk to the vet, a woman stopped to ask Yukon’s breed. “Such a gorgeous colour,” she said. I don’t know why, but I told her where we were going.
“Would you like me to come?”
“No thanks, we’re a pack of two.”
“He’ll be waiting for you in heaven.”
“Lady,” I wanted to say, “If you are trying to comfort me, you’re best not to reference God.” But I didn’t. Jackie Kennedy would be proud.
Summer won’t be the same without playing fetch in the ocean. I’m still vacuuming tumbleweeds of fur and I keep expecting him to bark whenever I sneeze. And that’s okay. Yukon Jack taught me something few gay men allow themselves to experience: commitment. He taught me to be good. I never thought it was possible.
Yukon… be good.