1995 - 2010
Is there anything more wonderful than a puppy? Their enthusiasm for life, their unbridled joy at just being alive is so infectious. No one can resist them. They’re cute, cuddly and even if they do pee on your leg, somehow it seems OK.
I’ve always had dogs. Puppies grow into dogs and burrow into your heart and become part of your life. You walk them, feed them, take care of them. And in return, they give you their unconditional love and affection. They’re always happy to see you - never too busy to drop whatever they’re doing to get their ears scratched and head out for a walk.
Dogs are great companions. But just as puppies grow into dogs, young dogs become old dogs. And all too soon, old dogs get tired and sore and aren’t as interested in playing as they used to be. They start to hang out in quiet places and sleep more than they used to. They’re still a big part of your life. But they’re withdrawing a bit too.
A couple of weeks ago, our old dog, Blue, stopped going out for walks. We were about a block away from our house, heading out to the park we go to every day. But suddenly she stopped and wouldn’t walk any further. So we turned around and headed back home and I put her up on the back deck. Then Roxy (our younger dog) and I headed out for our walk.
Each day, I asked Blue if she wanted to come for a walk. She’d come out to the front yard with us and nose around the neighbour’s lawn. But then she’d head back to her spot on the back deck and go to sleep.
She was having trouble settling down. Her hips were locking up. She struggled to lay down and get up. She was whining more so you knew she was starting to ache a lot. She lost her appetite and started to lose weight.
I knew what was coming. I’ve had dogs get old and there is no way to put off the inevitable. But it’s so hard to actually make the call. When she needed me to help her get up and go down and up the stairs, I knew the time had come. Our dogs depend on us to give them a good life. We shelter them and feed them and nurse them when they’re sick. But when their time comes, we don’t let them suffer. When their quality of life declines, it’s our responsibility to comfort them until the end.
Last Wednesday, I booked a house call from our vet for Friday morning. Knowing what was coming was difficult - there was that nagging voice that said maybe I didn’t need to follow through. Perhaps Blue just needed a bit more time and she’d get her strength back and we could carry on a bit longer.
But about 2 am Friday morning, Blue’s whining woke us. When I went outside, she was struggling to stand, with her feet sliding off in all directions. She wanted to get up but couldn’t get her footing. So I supported her and we went down the stairs into the back yard, where she did her business with as much doggie dignity as she could muster. Then I carried her back up the stairs and put her on her blanket, where she’d been sleeping for the last two weeks.
She wouldn’t drink any water from her bowl, but if I dipped my hand, she’d lick it dry. We did that for five minutes until the dish was empty. She wasn’t whining any more. I watched while she fell asleep.
In the morning, she was awake but she hadn’t moved when the vet arrived. Heather, Jaime and I were on the back deck, along with Roxy. The vet’s name was Dr. Helen Rae and she was professional and respectful. Blue drifted off without a whimper.
I miss Blue terribly. Much more than with our other dogs. I’m not quite sure why. Perhaps it’s because I’m older myself and more aware of my own mortality. If so, I hope I carry myself into my old age with as much dignity as Blue did.
It’s taken me a couple of days to write this. As I do so, Roxy is lying outside my office door. She’s been very subdued since Blue left. She’s lost her constant companion and she’s struggling with that - just as I am. But as the days pass, we’ll both think a little less about what we’ve lost and remember how much we enjoyed our life with Blue.
The puppy that we found abandoned 15 years ago, with cut-up feet and covered with ticks, remained a faithful member of our family, much-loved by all of us and keenly missed now. We will always remember her.
Farewell, my old friend.