Can you remember reading books as a kid, crying your eyes out about a dog dying? Where the Red Fern Grows was the first I could remember. My forth-grade teacher wiped her eyes and took breaks as she read that aloud to the class. When the saddest thing I knew to that point in my life was not fitting in on the playground, a dead dog made me sad for at least a week. But alas, my family never had a dog. We had kittens, and chicks growing up, but they usually “disappeared”, coupled with the fact that I never grew close to those animals, I avoided that devastating experience of losing a dog. Until Now.
I joke around with the fact that I got a puppy for valentines day, and one more for my birthday, when it was my husband that was in love with dogs. He wanted them, and celebrating me was an excuse for him to get them. Two Labrador retrievers, one golden and one chocolate, were found in the newspaper ads when they were only weeks old, and we had a lot of fun incorporating them into our childless life. They were essentially our kids. Every single day I took those two dogs to the park. We made weekend trips to the beach, and loved watching Bear, the chocolate lab dart under waves to swim out to the sea lions.
And then we had a real boy. He grew up with these two dogs, and thought of them as his siblings. Sure, we stopped making daily trips to the park. (Way too hard) And the beach? That was nearly impossible what with the amount of stuff you bring for your kid, a dog just about put us over the limit. So that came less and less. But they were loved. In a pull-your-tail, chase-around-the-yard, try-to-ride-you-like-a-horsy kind of way.
But what I wasn’t prepared for was, as it turns out, humans live much longer than dogs. Labs only live to be 12 or so years old and last February our dogs turned 13. Bear, our chocolate’s health was failing. As a mom, I was hoping to figure out a way to shield CJ my seven year old from this devastation. But nothing made sense more then letting him be a part of losing him. Each night we said good-bye to him, just in case he didn’t wake up. And each night, for seven days CJ would cry himself to sleep. It was harder than I thought to make the choice to put him down, until the end when things got really bad.
But we did say good-bye. And it was harder for me than I had thought. Seriously, it is a dog!!! But he was so much more to me than that. He was a protector, a beach friend, and a comfort to me in the many years we tried to get pregnant before CJ. Tears come to me with I think of him, say his name, or look at pictures of this chubby lab.
CJ talks about him, but doesn’t cry now. He remembers him fondly. When I took him to the vet for the last time I couldn’t imagine ever going though that again. “No more dead dogs!!” I told myself. But looking back, it was a great friend to CJ, and a great lesson in responsibility, and an even greater lesson in loss. For now, we will enjoy Sandy while we can and remember Bear with the few iphone pictures I have.