Jan 12, 2006

Saying Goodbye To A Good Dog

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(Toledo, OH) There are a million of these sappy pet stories on the Internet, so I won't feel the slightest bit of offense if you choose to pass up on this post.

This is utterly and completely an exercise in clearing my head so that I can think straight, and a bit of self pitying spleen-letting.

Hershey is a Labrador retriever who has faithfully stood guard over our house, climbed under the fence after rabbits and possums, and been a member of my family for fourteen years. You have patiently allowed children to ride you like a horse, and barked at every stranger who wandered to close to your turf.

We received a call from a neighbor once while at work telling us that the dog was sitting, Sphynx-like, in the middle of a fairly busy road. He wandered out after a kid left the gate open, and did not feel like moving when coaxed by my neighbor. He knew - as he always did - that if he held out long enough someone would eventually bribe him with a treat to get him into the car.

You can almost set your watch by this dog, and he knows to stand at the front fence at 2:30 when the kids get off the bus. If you listen about 1:30 his bark will tell you when the mail carrier is three houses away. Yesterday, though, he tried but could not muster the strength to meet the kids.

It's time to say goodbye, old friend. You are having trouble even standing upright, and when you walk your unsteady gait makes you look like inebriated. Always an outdoor dog, you are now shivering in an unseasonably warm 50-degree January sun; this despite a thick fur coat that evolved to let you swim in the coldest of waters.

And yet, when I walk outside, you still hobble over to see me, gamely wagging your tail with whatever neural powers still remain in that emaciated spinal cord.

I am not sure what is worse - watching the poor dog struggle to walk, or the wail of the children as they try to convince me that "he still has a few more months - PLEASE, Dad!"

For your sake and theirs, it's time, Bubba. Hope to meet up with you again some day.

15 comments:

Lisa Renee said...

Having just gone thru this not long ago? My thoughts go out to you and the kids as I know how hard it is for you and will be for them.

historymike said...

Thank you, Lisa. It is amazing how attached you grow to a dog.

Now I just have to get ready and break the bad news to my kids. My youngest son is VERRRRRY resistant to the idea that the dog will not live forever.

Hell, I'M resistant!

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your dog, Mike. Good luck.

Lloyd said...

Mike,

Sorry for your and your family's loss. I know it can be hard to part with pets.

historymike said...

Yes, "family" is certainly the word for this canine friend.

They provide unconditional love 7 days a week, and ask for nothing more than food, shelter, and affection.

Calico Jack said...

I've been there before, personally and with friends. I've seen genuinely tough, hard hearted men break down when they lose their best friend.

Sorry to hear the news. You have my deepest sympathy.

M A F said...

I want to extend my heart-felt condolences to you and your family. As a dog owner with a 13 year old female I fear the day when I will have to let her go as you have Hershey.

karen said...

Sorry to hear about your dog, Mike. :(

willow said...

Mike, I have a dog now who is just like that. You can set a watch by him as well. He knows when to go to the front window when each child comes home (different busses, different schools) and goes absolutley nuts when my husband gets home. His bark is so monotone when he greets him just the same bark over, and over, and over. And there is no stopping him either. But whats really weird is that the tone of the bark, its different for my husband than any other bark he has.

Once he gets in the door he HAS to go in the back yard and play fetch with him or else he won't leave him alone. But the thing is, he will only fetch 3 times then he's done. Very weird I know. Our dog is only 5 and I know when that day comes where we have to make that type of decision it will be gut wrenching.

Anonymous said...

Mike, as difficult as this sounds, please don't let him go alone. Be by his side, hold him and stroke him, be the last thing he sees...

Stephanie said...

My heart goes out to you, Mike. Losing a pet is never easy, even when you know it's time. I hope your children take it well, and understand this isn't a choice you make gladly.

Hooda Thunkit said...

Mike,

My heart goes out to you, to Herschel, and to the rest of the loved ones left behind.

And, Yes I'm sure that he was FAMILY...

:-(

valbee said...

As you know, I don't have a dog (although I really want one), I have cats. But I feel very much the same way about my cat Mickey. She's been with me since just after my husband died and she's the best companion. She's the only cat I've ever had that recognizes my car from down the street and jumps off the porch to come greet me.

I don't find your story sappy at all and I'm glad that you chose to share it with us. I know this isn't going to be easy for anyone in your family... I'll keep you all in my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

This brought tear to my eyes. Making the decision to say goodbye to a faithful friend is so very hard but it is the right thing to do. You and your family have my deepest sympathy.

Do said...

I am so sorry to hear about Hershey's decline. It is never easy to say goodbye to such a loyal friend/family member.

A couple years ago I had to realize that I was making excuses for my own sake, not my best friends. I sat in the floor of the vets office with her head in my lap and reveled in the last precious moments I would have with her. She was my friend and confident for over 14 years. A part of me went with her over the rainbow. Her ashes are in my china cabinet and when it's my time she will go with me.

I will say a special prayer for Hershey, you, and your family. We will all think of you during this very difficult time.