Wednesday, September 9, 2009

So Long Ol' Pal

Well, it's been three weeks now. Exactly, almost to the hour. So I suppose I owe my buddy a little send-off in honor of the wonderful 13 1/2 years that he gave me.

Network's neurological problems and failing health were affecting his quality of life this summer, so I decided, after much deliberation and consultation, to let him go peacefully, instead of waiting for a traumatic event that would be unbearably painful for both of us. Hard as it was to make the decision, I am glad that we do have that option with our beloved pets.

Contemplating the event was more painful than the actual event. Since he could still summon the excitement to trot to the car when he knew he was going for a ride, I didn't want that last trot to be wasted on the short last trip to the vet. So I decided we would take a longer road trip on our last morning together.

We hadn't been on the high side of Rocky Mountain National Park yet, so that seemed to be a nice destination. Other than that, we didn't have an end point in mind. We would just drive until it was time to turn around and get back for the appointment. As luck or fate or destiny would have it, that place turned out to be Rainbow Curve. The Rainbow Bridge story wasn't ever one that really resonated with me, but maybe there's something to it after all. A friend later commented that when she visits Rainbow Curve next time she will think of Network and know that his spirit is there. That's a nice thought - that from that beautiful high vantage point, I gave him a little head start on running free.

I didn't get him out of the car up there - too much of a chore. But I took some pictures, including the one below, the last one that I took of him. It perfectly captures his beautiful face as I remember it most. It is also how he spent the entire trip - with his head near my elbow on the center console. He didn't usually stay in that position for as long as he did that day - maybe he was trying to comfort me.

I wanted to write a story of Network's life, like I did with Lily (the first post in this blog), but what I realized while trying to write it is that Network's story is really my story, or a story about all the wonderful things that came into my life because he was a part of it. He was my first Lab, my first dog, and he changed my life. Most of the friends that I have now, especially the lifelong type, came to me because of him. Getting to know dogs, especially Labs and Goldens (he was part both), and the joy they bring to our lives has shaped my life.

Through volunteering with various dog organizations - Healdsburg Animal Shelter, Loving Paws Assistance Dogs, Canine Angels Service Teams, Solano County Animal Shelter and Safe Harbor Lab Rescue - I have been touched hundreds of times by being able to play a role in improving the lives of dogs and people when wonderful matches are made. This is something that Network gave to me. He also gave me dog photography, one of the great passions of my life.

So on that last day, he executed a flawless leap from the car (lately he'd been more likely to crash on his head if I let him get out on his own), gobbled down the Sausage Egg McMuffin that I had saved for him since breakfast, and walked proudly under his own power in to the vet's office, (after stumbling and falling on the hill, just to reassure me that he really wasn't in as good shape as it might appear).

The vet and his assistant were absolutely wonderful, although we had never met them before. We were escorted to a lovely spot on the lawn under a tree behind the animal hospital. They gave him a heavy sedative, so that he could just rest with his head in my lap, which he did for about ten minutes before they returned to give him the final injection. And then he was gone. It was just as peaceful as could be, and the whole day was as nice as it possibly could have been.

Goodbye my faithful friend. There will never be another like you.


February 17, 1996 - August 19, 2009