It was a highly emotional experience. My wife and I cried and cried. It was one of the toughest things I had ever had to choose to do in my life. We were having to say goodbye to a friend. No, he wasn’t a friend, he was a family member.
It had been twelve years since we brought home a cuddly puppy and taught him how to be a dog. His name also reflected his relationship with us, “Buddy McGee.” Buddy was the smartest pet we had ever had with over a dozen tricks and an understanding vocabulary nearing 200 words and hand signals.
We had to say goodbye and put him down two weeks ago.
He was a cute black and white Boston Terrier with a very active tongue. I would often say he was a pink tongue with a dog wrapped around it. He loved to lick faces and would as long as a person would let him.
Beginning with a blank slate, we filled him with a large recognition of vocabulary and tricks. Besides “sit” and “lay down” we taught him how to roll over, crawl, play dead, speak, jump, dance, shake a paw, and even play the piano. He would jump onto the bench in front of the piano and hit the keys! Sometimes he “sang” along. Nothing he played would make the top 40 list, but it wasn’t for him not trying.
It would take several paragraphs to list all the vocabulary words he knew. Besides words and hand gestures for tricks, he knew “walk,” “run,” “treat,” “come,” “stay,” “downstairs,” “go get a toy,” “heel,” “kiss.” “fetch,” “frisbee,” “ball,” “go potty,” “home,” “piano,” and “downstairs.”
He loved doing his tricks. He loved playing fetch the frisbee, He loved running four miles with me early in the morning or going on long walks with my wife. He loved catching treats I tossed him. He loved car rides and road trips. He loved visiting his dog friend’s family. He greeted me with excitement when I came home each day.
He loved life and he added value to my life and my wife’s life.
But, as is the case with all pets, they age on you and with the years comes a frail and feeble body. Although they may remain a puppy on the inside, their personality changes on the outside. We still love our pets as limitations begin in their lives.
As he aged he began slowing down. We realized one day that he had gone deaf. Then he began having trouble breathing because of a tumor on his throat. He developed congestive heart failure. He gained weight. He had to sleep spread eagle on his stomach to allow him to breathe. One day he began looking at us differently with his head cocked. This was a permanent change in his demeanor.
Recently he began slobbering almost around the clock and he began throwing up.
We thought we were going to have to put him down a year ago, but he kept fighting to enjoy life. Even when he went blind in his left eye, he still jumped up on the chair in my study and begged for treats. He still loved going out the front door and down the street for walks.
We loved him just as much as the day we brought him home and started sharing life together.
When we came home, we would have to touch him to let him know we were home and he would jump to his feet startled. Despite our wanting to keep him alive, both my wife and I agreed he was not living a pleasant life. His suffering broke our hearts.
Anyhow, every pet eventually dies. Each of you reading this can relate. Some die of old age, others have to be put down to avoid a life in pain or living a low quality of life.
The time had come to allow him to end his suffering and to move on to dog heaven where he could run free and hopefully chase some squirrels again.
We made an appointment to visit the veterinarian and then counted down the days to his last day. We gave him extra loving and took him for walks. We took him to play in the yard in the house he had lived over eleven years of his life. We set a record for giving a dog treats in a single day. We began our crying.
The day arrived and we knew it was his last day. It was difficult to not be able to tell him this. I took my final pictures of him hoping to hold onto some visual memories of our favorite pet.
Then we took him to the vet. The tears flowed as we took him to the back room and cuddled with him our last time. The vet came in and helped him to go to sleep his last time. I held him in my arms as he breathed his last breath. It was a peaceful process for Buddy. It was a traumatic experience for my wife and me.
We took Buddy home to a grave already prepared in our large back yard and laid him to rest looking towards our house and at those of us who would be carrying on after he is gone. We cried some more.
We miss our family member. My world is not the same. When I woke up each morning Buddy would always greet me. I would let him out and give him a treat. This routine is broken and I miss the habit we had created.
There is a hole in our world that he once filled and brought us joy. But he is in a better place now and he is not in pain any more. We still get emotional over missing our Buddy.
My challenge to you today is to love on the pets that are a part of your family. It is very likely that you will outlive them and there will be a day when death takes them from you. Enjoy your pet while you can and treasure the memories you make together.
Although you will likely experience their last breath, the memories you make will live on in you for the rest of your years. Through death the family member is gone, through memories your pet will always live on in you.
Just a thought...
Rick Kraft is a motivational speaker, a syndicated columnist, a published author, and an attorney. To submit comments, contributions, or ideas, e-mail to email@example.com:firstname.lastname@example.org or write to P.O. Box 850, Roswell, New Mexico, 88202 - 0850.
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