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Almost Time To Say Goodbye

Fourteen years ago we added a new member to the family. Four legs, reddish fur and energy that seemed limitless ran circles around us. We all fell in love with the big rascal. He was a true puppy in spirit and action. At times it was hard not to get frustrated with him as he did what puppies do.

He ate shoes, hairbrushes, bag lunches, and the occasional steak. He tore up newspapers and chased shadows. At night he whined and moaned a bit. He was lonely and he did what he could to make sure that you paid attention to him. But in time his training kicked in and so did ours. We learned to read him and he us.

Family dinners were an occasion. The big lug would come over and bat our arms with a giant paw. You'd turn and look and see dark soulful eyes looking back at you. Sometimes he would take that massive head and force it in between your arms and your side. Even those times when you were angry you'd find yourself smiling. You couldn't help but love this giant beast.

He is the largest golden retriever that many people have seen. Certainly there are larger versions of him running around, but that is not the point. We have long laughed about his abilities as a watchdog. If you broke into the house you'd probably be scared of him, at least until he tried to bring you a beer. He is that kind of friendly.

But age has caught up with him. His body is starting to break down and he is having trouble getting up and moving around. We have done what we can to try and make life easier but the end is coming. The vet says that it won't be long before his body really begins to fail him and that even medication won't prevent that.

He said that somewhere towards the end of the summer we are going to be faced with a hard decision. I was a little surprised by how hard the news hit me. He is not gone yet, but the thought of losing him got me choked up.

I stood there looking a face that has gone white with age. So I reached down and gave the big galoot a hug and wiped away a tear. I am not ready to say goodbye. I am not ready to talk to my children about what happened and why. I am not ready to walk into a house, an empty house. The silence will be palpable.

That is part of what is so hard about having a dog. Our lives can be so interconnected yet at the same time our life spans are not the same. Their candle burns brighter and ends sooner. In some ways it feels unfair.

The good news is that he is not gone yet and we may have him for a good chunk longer. That crazy animal is like every other member of the family; strong willed, stubborn and determined to do things on his terms.

For now I'll continue to take advantage of the time we have together. I'll choose to be happy because that is a much nicer way to live, but I'd be lying if I said that typing this has been easy.

Comments

Time for me to go kiss my big hairy beast (not Hubby, he's out of town). Thanks for the reminder to love them while they're here.
Anonymous said…
Pets become such a part of our lives. It brought back memories from January when our beloved Dodger died unexpectedly. But it also brought back the happy memories.

Comfort and peace to you and your family.
Deadman said…
What BN and Seawitch said.

Jack, I went through this a year ago last March. Through it all, to the end, I was not alone thanks in large part to the community of friends I have made in the blogosphere and even total strangers that dropped by and wished us well in a difficult time.

I don't know how I would have got through it otherwise.

Peace.
Anonymous said…
...And I'd be lying if I said reading it didn't bring tears to my eyes. Our pets become beloved family very quickly, and saying goodbye to them can be heartwrenching and devastating. Enjoy the time you have left with this very special member of your family.

Beautiful post. I'm off to give my sweeties a big hug!
Tamara said…
Thanks for making me cry firs thing in the morning.

Pets are the best and the memories we have of them are always happy. You put it so eloquently: Their light burns brighter than our's. The lovely thing is when you remember you pooch, there are no bad feelings, no regrets, none of the b.s. that comes with being a human.

I know full well what you're going through. At the beginning of the year I had to put my cat of 19.5 years down.

Be strong, and happy.
Oh Jack, I'm sorry! It's always so hard to say goodbye to a beloved family pet. I'm glad you have some time left to let him know just how loved and appreciated he is.
Anonymous said…
Dogs are the best, aren't they? So sad that their lives are so short, as you've so eloquently written.
Anonymous said…
Am sorry about your woof, Jack.
Stacey said…
My beloved dog died almost a year ago. She got sick and was dead a week later. Cancer. Thank G-d I didn't have to make the decision to put her down. That's a tough one.
Val said…
And i'd also be lying if I said I didn't cry reading this. You all were lucky to have each other and enjoy the time you have left with him.
And you'll have the strength to do what has to be done -- just make sure he's not alone at the end, which I'm sure you know.
torontopearl said…
Jack, I was in California two years ago when our dog died back in Toronto. We'd only had him a couple of years, but he was part of our life and a wonderful family member.

I cried like a baby the morning I found out about Tyson, but then I had to dry my eyes and tamp down my feelings for several hours -- I was going to the Ariel Avrech yahrzeit lecture; I felt I didn't have the right to cry about a dog at that point.

Some people can't understand how our feelings are so intertwined with our pets; when you need to, find those people who CAN understand and will give you the support you will be craving. And talk about it with the kids and let them express their feelings too; let them draw pictures or write messages to the doggie, if need be. Our children did that for Tyson, and it helped.
Jack Steiner said…
Babka,

:)

Sea,

Thank you.

Mark,

It is nice to know that some people get it.

Wordnerd,

I have always thought that people who don't have this experience are missing out.

Pets are the best and the memories we have of them are always happy.

Very true.

I'm glad you have some time left to let him know just how loved and appreciated he is.

Me too.

Dogs are the best, aren't they?

They are.

Susanne,

Thanks.

Thank G-d I didn't have to make the decision to put her down. That's a tough one.

It is.

just make sure he's not alone at the end,

I dread that, but I'll be there.

Pearl,

Thanks for the ideas for the kids. I hadn't thought of those. They'll like that.
benning said…
When I was eighteen, only a few months after my father's passing, it became my duty to have our dog put to sleep. We'd had him around since I was in grade school. Our then-neighbors had taken his sister, and for a time we kids bonded because our dogs were siblings.

But dogs get old so fast. In the blink of an eye the old fellow could no longer step up to enter the house and had to have his haunches lifted. He became ornery as his joints became stiff and painful. When he snapped at my grandmother one morning for getting too close to his dish, it became clear that it was time.

So in the spring of 1974 it fell to me to take Toby to the vet. I'm afraid I didn't have the "stuff" to stick around after giving him a tearful hug goodbye. I knew the vet would be gentle with him, but I wasn't ready to stay with him as the needle was slipped into a vein.

And it still makes me sad to remember the look in his eyes when I left him there.

Dogs become as much a part of the family as any sibling, cousin, aunt or uncle. And thier passing is every bit as painful, and leaves as big a void, as does the passing of a human relative.

Jack, I don't envy you what is ahead. He sounds like a fine pal. Enjoy his presence while you can.
Anonymous said…
He does sound like a wonderful old dog.
Jack Steiner said…
So in the spring of 1974 it fell to me to take Toby to the vet. I'm afraid I didn't have the "stuff" to stick around after giving him a tearful hug goodbye. I knew the vet would be gentle with him, but I wasn't ready to stay with him as the needle was slipped into a vein.

And it still makes me sad to remember the look in his eyes when I left him there.


Benning,

I have done it before. It was hard, especially because I remember the look in her eyes.

Miriam,

He is.
Michael said…
It's hard to face the impending death of a well-beloved pet. I hope that everything goes easily, but I know you'll miss him dearly.

I've outlived two cats and a cockatiel, and that was enough. My Amazon parrot should last longer than me...