Fourteen years ago we added a new member to the family. Four legs, reddish fur and energy that seemed limitless ran circles around us. We all fell in love with the big rascal. He was a true puppy in spirit and action. At times it was hard not to get frustrated with him as he did what puppies do.
He ate shoes, hairbrushes, bag lunches, and the occasional steak. He tore up newspapers and chased shadows. At night he whined and moaned a bit. He was lonely and he did what he could to make sure that you paid attention to him. But in time his training kicked in and so did ours. We learned to read him and he us.
Family dinners were an occasion. The big lug would come over and bat our arms with a giant paw. You’d turn and look and see dark soulful eyes looking back at you. Sometimes he would take that massive head and force it in between your arms and your side. Even those times when you were angry you’d find yourself smiling. You couldn’t help but love this giant beast.
He is the largest golden retriever that many people have seen. Certainly there are larger versions of him running around, but that is not the point. We have long laughed about his abilities as a watchdog. If you broke into the house you’d probably be scared of him, at least until he tried to bring you a beer. He is that kind of friendly.
But age has caught up with him. His body is starting to break down and he is having trouble getting up and moving around. We have done what we can to try and make life easier but the end is coming. The vet says that it won’t be long before his body really begins to fail him and that even medication won’t prevent that.
He said that somewhere towards the end of the summer we are going to be faced with a hard decision. I was a little surprised by how hard the news hit me. He is not gone yet, but the thought of losing him got me choked up.
I stood there looking a face that has gone white with age. So I reached down and gave the big galoot a hug and wiped away a tear. I am not ready to say goodbye. I am not ready to talk to my children about what happened and why. I am not ready to walk into a house, an empty house. The silence will be palpable.
That is part of what is so hard about having a dog. Our lives can be so interconnected yet at the same time our life spans are not the same. Their candle burns brighter and ends sooner. In some ways it feels unfair.
The good news is that he is not gone yet and we may have him for a good chunk longer. That crazy animal is like every other member of the family; strong willed, stubborn and determined to do things on his terms.
For now I’ll continue to take advantage of the time we have together. I’ll choose to be happy because that is a much nicer way to live, but I’d be lying if I said that typing this has been easy.