Did you ever have one of those days? Just when you think life's thrown everything at you and can't possibly think up any more terrible things... it gets worse. After my hubby's heart attack a few weeks ago, he came down with a terrible cold. I started feeling awful too. But I think I've cried all the toxins out of my system.
Yesterday, I came home from work, patted my dog Benji on the head, teased him about the Praying Mantis on the other side of the sliding glass door and got him excited before I let him out. Usually, Benji runs around the yard, doing his business, patrolling for errant squirrels, and checking on the pond goldfish to be sure they're not doing anything out of line. Then he'll walk the exact border of our yard to secure the perimeter. He's very fastidious about this.
I put the tea kettle on and through the kitchen window, heard him cough. Sometimes when he sleeps late, things get backed up and he does this.
After a few more minutes, I went outside. It's not like him to stay out for too long when we're all inside. He's very much a people dog. A cuddler. When we first got him, we swore we'd stick to the rule we had with our old dog: no bed. Of course, that was before we knew how lovable Benji was. He couldn't get close enough. He saw us lying there, and slid one paw on the bed, then wriggled his head up, then the next thing we knew, we were letting not only Benji on the bed but the cat too. (Two extra furry bodies in a bed's nice in the winter, actually. Especially when the wood stove's running low.) Before we knew it, we were urging him to jump up on the bed. He was that great of a dog.
We used to joke that he had the nervous system of his border collie half, and the brains of his lab half. But he was all heart.
Benji could never bear to be alone in the house, either, so we took him with us most of the time. We hated to leave him because we loved to be with him. Such a baby, we teased him. And he almost was. Just like one of the kids.
Which makes it all the more heartbreaking. When I went outside, I found Benji lying down, panting very hard. He wouldn't get up, so I brought his water outside. No response. All his efforts were on breathing. We rushed him to the vet but there was nothing they could do. Apparently Benji had a tumor, and it ruptured, and he was bleeding. As painful as it must have been for him, he never once complained or even whimpered. So the most dreaded of all decisions: end his suffering right away?
My daughters and I spent a few minutes hugging him, telling him how good he was and how much we loved him, and then the vet put him to sleep. It was very peaceful, if horrible.
We brought him home, and now he's resting beneath his favorite squirrel tree. He used to sit there for hours, daring those squirrels to come down. Often, they did - they knew Benji had a good heart and wouldn't hurt them. He just loved the sport of the chase, and I think those squirrels did too. They might miss him as much as us. Almost.
There's a joke that says if you play a country song backward, you get your girl/boyfriend back, and your dog back. If I could, I'd play it backward. At least making this video brought back lots of great memories. He brought us great joy, and I'm grateful. But the greater the joy, the greater the loss. We will miss Benji forever.