Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Saying goodbye to a friend.

Tomorrow I will take my dog to the vet for the final time.  This day didn't sneak up on me; I knew it was coming, imagined it, cried about it, and now it's here.
On our last hike, to peak UN8547 in May of 2016.  Even then, he was moving slow.
On the summit of 8547.
Three months ago I came home from work on my lunch break to find him spread eagle in the hallway, panting hard.  It was clear he'd fallen near the front door and dragged himself to the spot he was in.  He was not able to get up under his own strength, and even with my assistance to get up, he was not able to hold his weight and collapsed again.  He's a tough customer at the vet, but describing these symptoms over the phone to her brought a prescription for Prednisone.  Who knew if it would work.
Being goofy under the couch in 2011.
Being goofy on the couch in 2013.  It's been months since he was last able to get on the couch.
"Helping" to move the couch out of the car when we got it.
That night he was lying on the floor and just peed every where.  For a dog who had never peed in the house once, that was shocking, and certainly not a good sign, as he made no effort to move at all.  I went to bed that night thinking this is it.  Surprisingly, the next morning he was mobile and able to stand and move under his own power.  A week or two later he was playing in the backyard like nothing had ever happened.
More Boulder County peaks in 2015.
Making faces!
Buttonrock Mountain and Six Benchmark in Spring 2015.
My wife commented that she thought we'd never see him like that again and I agreed.
We got him in 2011.  We went to the Humane Society looking for a friend for our other dog.  We'd narrowed it down to two, a small white dog, and the dog we would name Jersey.  The small white dog was very nice and sweet to us, but when we brought our dog into the room, it ran and hid under a table and barked at him while he looked at us confused.
Brothers!  Shortly after we got Jersey.
At Ralph Price Reservoir in March 2016.
Buttonrock Preserve, March 2016.
Then Jersey came into the room.  It was clear he'd been in this room before- he headed right for the toy basket and picked up a rope.  Our dog started following him around.  Instantly, they were playing.
Cuddles with both dogs, 2011.
Cuddles between dogs, 2011.
Union Reservoir, 2013.
 Funny looking cute, 2013.
The adoption was perhaps poor timing on our part.  About a week later, we went out of town and boarded them.  Upon our return, the owners said it was like they had grown up together.
Snow day, February 2016.
More fun in the snow.
More cuddles-note you can just see my face sticking out to the left of him, 2013.
And thus it was, Gunner and Jersey.  The Humane Society said he knew some basic commands, but once we had some time with him, it was clear he had been someones dog before, and that they had loved him.  He knew shake with both paws, roll over, and other commands.  Clearly, someone had taken the time to teach him these things.  I am glad he was able to have the love of not just one family in his life, but two.
Making faces, 2015.
That's more like it!
PSA remember to pack out what you pack in dog, 2013.
Under the weather in 2015.
Jersey and his favorite toy ever, a rope.  May, 2016.
Like every dog, he had his foibles and strange behaviors.  He was scared of some loud noises.  Oddly enough, the click on of the refrigerator compressor in our old house scared him.  Yes, the dog who would bark at anything and anyone with teeth bared was scared of the fridge.  His comfort was our bed.  He'd enter the room, and thoughtfully rearrange our sheets and blankets into a little nest for himself.  I guess it was comforting to him to be around our scents.
Punk rock dog!  2014.
Again helping, 2011.
More cuddles, 2011.
So we started closing the door.  He found a way in by squeezing though a missing pane of glass in a door in another room and then making his way through a shared closet.  We put in a different door and put a small cat door in it.  He chewed/clawed the cat door out and enlarged the hole until it was big enough to get through.  Finally, I bought a solid door.  He tried, but he was not able to get through that!
Brothers cuddling, 2011.
No, that's my bed, 2011.
Brothers, August 2016.
Brother and cat sister, 2016.
Post collapse and Prednisone, March 2017.
More laying in my bed, 2012.
The backyard at our old house was largely dirt, and he would go roll around in it.  He'd come inside so dirty that you could raise clouds of dust by petting him.
Hiking in late 2015- this was the first time we remember his mobility seeming to be affected.  He was moving slowly, and it looked like he was in pain.
I took this after his fall in March.  I thought it was the end for him then, but we were able to get a little more time with him.
 Face smashed into mom, 2013.
Post dust bath, 2012.
Fourth of July, 2014.
Rolling around in the dirt, 2011.  Notice he's wearing two bandanas.  He loves them.  We'd change them weekly, and hold up the two selections to him.  He'd touch the one he wanted with his nose.  
He'd bark so ferociously that I once had Jehovah's Witnesses apologize for knocking on my door, give me a pamphlet, and leave!
Goofing around.  In addition to bandanas, you could put any article of clothing on him and he'd walk around with his tail wagging.  This spurred the idea for the dog hoodie pictured above, 2011.
Interspecies cuddles, 2012.
Yet, he was a sweet dog.  He loved to cuddle with us on the couch.  He'd grind his head against you so hard it almost hurt.  I have to think he really did love us and love being around us as much as we did him.
The ultimate tragedy with any pets is that they don't last as long as us.  The responsibility to choose an end is a tough load to bear, yet it's part of the deal from the day we pick them, or they pick us.  It's hard to see the dog who once walked proudly, tail up and wagging, head held high, eyes bright, smiling, and almost prancing with every step turn into something else.  It's hard to watch him struggle to walk, rear end inches above the floor, looking like he's going to fall over with almost every pace.  It's hard when you realize you can't remember the last time you saw the incessant tail wagger wag his tail, and to know you can't tell if it's because he's no longer happy, or because he no longer has the ability to do so.  It's hard when he's still eating, and still seems genuinely happy to see you, but he's going to the bathroom more inside than out, and you don't know if he can't hold it, or he doesn't know where he is anymore.  It's hard to watch him pace around endlessly, growing more and more exhausted, and he won't lay down.  It's hard to know this is the same dog who once wanted to play for hours at the dog park, but those days have passed, and now a ten minute walk can leave him totally wiped out.

Today is for him.  A new toy, a ride in the car, some dog ice cream and steak for dinner, with lots of pets and hugs along the way.  It's hard to know this will be the last time we go for a ride in the car, the last time he'll have dog ice cream, the last time I'll hear him squeak a new toy.  Tomorrow I'll drive him to the vet.  It's only a mile away, but it's going to be the longest drive of my life.  Once the procedure starts, he'll be gone in less than a minute, but that will be an eternity for me.  He got six years of love with us and his dog brother, and six years with his previous family.  He'll be gone, but he'll remain in my heart forever.  I don't believe in God, but I do believe that all dogs go to heaven.  I will love him forever.

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