We could see it coming, sort of. He was sleeping more during the day, walking a little more stiffly in the mornings and after those naps. He wasn’t climbing the steps up to the bedroom every night.
FredDog was getting old. We know he was at least 14. He came to us as a second-hand rescue dog. The family that had rescued him needed to downsize their pack, and it turned out that Fred was ready to rescue us.
He was just what we needed – a used dog who could train us… in the art of being a pack. He introduced us to a lot of neighbors with his extroverted way of exploring. His unique bay-bark was unforgettable. People who heard him at the local groomer would say, “Oh that’s who belongs to that bark” when we’d go to events at the park downtown. He charmed everyone with his soulful eyes and playful spirit.
When he wasn’t talking to the neighbor dogs, Fred told us about all the other critters out back. He was never sure whether to go introduce himself or hide from the family of deer that trekked through the wooded area behind the house. The ducks baffled him, but let a cat walk by and his nose alarm would set off all manner of barking.
Inside, Fred offered hours of entertainment with his arranging and rearranging of blankets and pillow. He kept track of our comings and goings better than we ever could, and if someone were late or (Fred forbid) out of town, he would keep one eye on the door.
He was a pain sometimes- puking or pooping or getting into our people food or barking when it was time to be quiet… but then came the snuggling up on the couch and all was forgiven.
He was a good soul. And he was made of zen. Even Blue-eyes McConnaughy has nothing on the laid back, let life roll attitude of a hound dog at peace. He could take the most anxious, tense, frustrated or angry of us to the couch and have us ready for a nap in no time. Everything would be alright alright alright.
But not the last few days. He was like my patients on the hospice ward when they were in the final stretch of living before dying. Going through familiar motions without comprehension, losing a sense of location and time, disengaging from the people around them. There, but not there.
And like some of those people, he was telling us through his choices – no more food, no more water- that he was done. It took us a little while to see it, to understand and to know what our part needed to be. This morning, it was time. Because Fred couldn’t say it, we had to tell the vet. We had to sign the papers, and we had to give permission for the drugs to be given.
I never ever imagined it would hurt this much. I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t know just how deeply that little mutt had nuzzled into my heart. He was there to catch tears I had cried over slights and wounds and disappointments. He was a calming presence after insomnia-inducing stress dreams. He welcomed me home and made sure I felt loved. Every day. Until today.
There’s a lot to be learned from pets about love and mutual care. There’s a lot to be learned from saying goodbye to those pets. But like most things- the knowing is fun, but the learning is hard. My heart hurts.
Farewell my sweet FredDog. Thank you for loving us so well.