If you have never had a companion animal (AKA – pet) then you will not understand this post. If you have, then you will.
For the past twenty years I have always had a dog or dogs in my life (the four-legged kind). At one point I had more than I truly wanted, but that was in part due to a daughter that liked to find strays and an ex that felt she should save every lost animal that found its way to our house.
I have had wolf hybrids (not an animal for people who are not strong-willed and resilient), a German Shepherd, a Basenji mix, a Husky mix, a Terrier mix, a Bernese mix, a Basset Hound, a junk yard hound mix and a Doberman/beagle mix (don’t ask about the last one, who knows how that happened).
The Dobie mix was the last of a long line of animals that I was blessed to have known. I wrote about him several weeks ago, and he was, to me, the best dog I have ever had. He was the one constant in my life for eleven years. Seeing me through two divorces, several surgeries, multiple rounds of physical therapy and over the past two years deteriorating health.
When I had surgery and was forced to sleep in a recliner for several weeks he slept by the recliner. If I had a bad fall in the house he would lay down beside me until I was able to get back up. When I would get exhausted from just trying to live my daily life and needed a nap he would push the door open to the bedroom and lay by the bed.
In his younger days he would jump up on the bed and we would fight over pillows and blankets, but as he aged his legs would no longer propel him on to the bed. As a young dog his favorite activity was to bring me a ball and we would play fetch in the house, with me throwing the ball on to the water-bed (yes I still have one of the few water-beds left in America). He would chase down the ball, jumping on the bed and flipping around like an acrobat to bring it back to me and continue the game.
He and I shared the same tastes in food: anything barbecued, cheese, good beef or venison, and Spam. He hated riding in the car, I don’t know if that was because of the motion of the car or my lousy driving. He loved to chase the occasionally lost squirrel that would find its way into the back yard. He hated mice, and was an exceptional mouser (better than my cats). As he grew older, he, like me, preferred to lay on the couch watching TV or he would curl up under my desk as I worked on some project.
He hated baths with a passion, and disdained being brushed, opting for the “natural” look, thank God he had short fur. He was a man’s dog, not really liking women all that much, a philosophy we did NOT share, but he tolerated the occasional intrusion of a female into the house. He was a great watch dog, barking and alerting at any noise on the porch. He would stand by the front door growling and barking until I would come to investigate, and then he would retreat behind me and peer out from behind my legs. I guess it was his way of saying, “I got your back.”
When he got sick a few weeks ago, having seizures and a stroke, I had hoped and prayed that he would recover. But, alas that was not to be. Over the past weekend he became progressively worse, and lost all neurological function in his hind quarters. He was unable to stand or walk, and refused to eat anything. By Saturday it was obvious that he would never recover, and I had to decide what the next step was going to be. I looked at him, and thought of my own medical problems.
What happens if I get as bad as he was? Do I just lay there, a shell of what I once was? I still have fight left in my body, and I will use my stubbornness to continue fighting. But as I sat on the floor with him over the weekend, I saw in his eyes that the fight was gone. By Sunday night I had made up my mind that the best course of action for him was to let him go with what dignity he had left. Monday was a holiday, so on Tuesday I loaded him into the car and took him to be put out of his pain and misery.
They gave him a shot to calm him, and then loaded him on to a cart to take him to his final resting. Because of my medical conditions, stress brings on horrible tremors, I did not stay. I was already shaking so badly that I could barely drive, and had to stop and sit awhile until my medication kicked in. To be honest, I cried most of the way home. I felt as if I had let down my best friend.
I know intellectually that I made the correct decision. But in my heart I feel like a failure. My daughter and her boyfriend breed, raise and train Aussies, and offered me one of the puppies that are due in October. I declined the offer. I’m a mutt myself, and prefer mutts over pure breds. My son suggested that I wait, and another stray will probably show up at the house in need of a home. Right now I don’t know what I am going to do. All I do know is that the house is quiet and feels empty, and so do I.