Smart and fully engaged, he was excellent and constant company. Dethroned successively by three babies, he generally took his demotion in good part.
Nosier than the Microsoft Paperclip, he always had to be involved, or at least present. A naughty, loud fellow, scourge of the neighbours. He was badly disciplined, an unrepentant pizza thief, a problem barker.
As he aged, he became blind and sick, and the sickness spread, despite our energetic denial. What made it hardest to bear is that we could see in his eyes that he was still in there. Barely able to walk he would still leap joyfully in the air when we came home.
When we broke the news of his condition, the children said ‘I wish I had been nicer to him’ and ‘it’s worse because he doesn’t know’
Towards the end, we ran a shift where one of us had to get up twice or three times per night and let him out. We could never sleep past 5.30am. It felt like having a newborn but without the upside. It was unsustainable. We walked like the undead, dealing with our kids and our jobs, but unable to bring ourselves to the point of what we had to do.
We heard many stories from others, some who had been to amazing extremes to keep their old dogs alive. They all told the same story: ‘We kept him alive too long because we couldn’t bear to let him go’. They were stories of bargaining, rationalising and denial.
In the end it was quite simple. We carried him into the vet. The vet spoke to us quietly and reassuringly, like a kindly priest. The tears ran unguarded down our faces from the moment we arrived until we left. When he was gone, he was gone. I wish I had not looked into his eyes as they changed. The right thing to do did not feel like the right thing to do.
Now, we can leave our food on the table without losing it. We can walk around the back lawn without the danger of stepping on landmines. We can sleep.
But weeks later I still hear his claws making fickety fickety noises behind me when I walk down the hall. I throw food on the floor and it stays there. When I rise from reading, there is no attentive dismount beside me. Coming home lacks a leaping celebration.
He was my dog, and I miss him every day.