The Empty Dog Bed
How to Decide When "It's Time"
With my first two, I had the luxury, and the curse, of time. Long term illnesses, no chance of improvement, 12 years old, 13 1/2 years old.
How do you decide in those cases?
With the first, I decided, on Sunday, that it would be Friday. But on Monday, as I sat in jury duty, all I could think about was how I would get through the week, sitting in the jury box every day, knowing that on Friday I'd be doing that. I couldn't take it. We said goodbye with no regrets on Monday night.
With the second, I decided it would be tomorrow. But the thought of getting up in the morning, trying to decide what to wear for the event, and just driving him there - I couldn't take it. So I scheduled it for the afternoon and spent the morning making more memories. We drove to Rocky Mountain National Park. From the back seat, he kept his big soft head right next to my arm on the center console the whole time - he had never done that before. He made a lot of noise, barking or talking I suppose, while I got gas in the car - I turned the recorder on the phone and captured that sound, in case I needed to hear it again. It was nice to stumble on it in old emails over future years. I ate part of a sausage egg muffin, and saved part for him for later. When we hit Rainbow Point, it was time to turn around and head back to make our appointment. I gave him the rest of my breakfast and we headed in.
With Sunny, it was easier. In April, he was a healthy boy, in great shape. It was a "large mass, in a bad spot" in May. By June, it was "an aggressive cancer". In July, on a Friday night, he went for a swim. That night, he was uncomfortable for the first time. I never really went to the bed, just laid on top of the covers, half-asleep, half-alert, as he dozed for a while, then got up to try to find a place that felt better. Somewhere in the middle of the night, I knew the time was soon.
I didn't worry so much about what I wore. I didn't worry that we were just driving in, intent on the mission and nothing else. I offered some breakfast as a final test - he ate only half, for the first time in his life; as if to say, "I'm a Lab, I at least have to try".
We went, all 4 of us, on a slow, short walk. He was lagging now, favoring the bad leg. It was time. I didn't have to wonder if it was too early or too late. It was right on time.
At the vet, he continued his mission to make people happy - a stranger in the parking lot couldn't resist asking, "Can I pet your dog." Inside the clinic, he wagged his familiar wag, with a little less spirit that only I would notice. But he wasn't quite done. He didn't want to come lay down on the blanket by me. He wanted to go in the back of the clinic where he'd been so many times during the years of his eye problems, where there was always an abundance of love showered on him.
Eventually I picked him up to lay him down - he was so light. He ate a few of the offered soft treats, but left the last one laying there. Then he laid his head down and never picked it back up again. The procedure hadn't even started. Without windows to his soul, I couldn't see what he was thinking. But it was clear. Now he was ready. And so was I.
I love you, Sweet Boy, and so do a whole lot of other people. You weren't mine so much as mine to care for, and share with the world.
?? 2006 ?? - July 15, 2017
Adoption in 2009
After one of his many surgeries - 2010
Playing ball after losing both eyes - 2013
In his uniform, after retiring from Reading Rovers - 2014