Such a heavy heart I have this morning. As I sit here, typing, my oldest and dearest dog is struggling out on the porch. For the last few weeks, he’s been struggling. He’ll alternate between good days when he begs me for treats and wants to play ball, and bad days when he limps around in obvious pain and only wants to be left alone.
The bad days have outweighed the good days here lately, and my heart can’t bear to watch him struggle anymore. I know that our time together is coming to an end, and that I must give him one final act of kindness. Even if it rips my heart out in the process.
This is Hoops. He’s 13 years old, almost to the day. I adopted him from an animal shelter in Cheyenne, and in those 13 years, he’s been a loyal, loving companion. He has been part of my adult life for so long now, it’s hard to imagine life without him. He was there when I was 20-something, single, and struggling with a job I disliked. He was there when I endured a string of bad relationships and broken hearts. He was there when my dad had a major stroke and the prognosis was uncertain. He was there when I suffered two miscarriages and endured one hellish pregnancy. He was always there, his fluffy head on my leg or back, the weight of him reminding me I wasn’t alone.
One night, he might have even saved my life. A naer-do-well was running from police officers and tried to run through my backyard to affect his escape. It might have worked, but for the yellow dog sleeping outside. A scuffle ensued between my protective big dog and the man. I woke up to frantic barking, flashlights shining in my bedroom window and pathetic cries from over the fence. “The dog bit me. The f’ing dog bit me.”
In the end, the police apprehended the man in the neighbor’s yard. He was missing one shoe, had his pants shredded and required stitches for his calf and hand where the “f’ing dog” bit him. I shudder to think what might have happened had Hoops not intervened. The man might have come right through the backyard, into my bedroom and who knows…thankfully, the big yellow dog did his job that night.
Hoops has also been with me for the best times, too. Nights with me rubbing his belly while I talked on the phone with Outdoor Guy as we planned our future life together. Riding shotgun on Sunday mornings to get a breakfast burrito (Hoops was just in it for the bacon) followed by a trip to the dog park. Days wandering the badlands of Washakie county, evening walks across the high desert prairie of Sublette county and afternoon romps in the water at Bump-Sullivan reservoir or Springer lake. He has patiently endured Wyokiddo’s exuberance, Outdoor Guy’s teasing and a furry brother and sister added to the mix.
I couldn’t ask for a more loyal, loving dog. I know there will be new dogs down the road, dogs that I will care for and love almost as much as Hoops. Almost. Because there will never be another curly-tailed, fuffy butt, grumbly big dog like him. He is one-of-a-kind, both in looks and in spirit.
My heart aches at the idea of what tomorrow holds. The goodbyes I must say and pray Hoops understands. I don’t want to do it. God, how I wish I could be spared the decision of euthanizing my best fur buddy. But I love him too much, I owe him too much to be selfish. So I will drive him to the vet and weep in his scruff as our time together comes to a close. I will feel my heart crack wide open and the tears flow freely.
I wish there was more time. But even that wouldn’t be enough. A lifetime of being loved by this big-hearted, goofy dog wouldn’t be enough. So instead, I’ll thank my lucky stars for the 13 great years I had with him, for his comfort and protection and his love. My heart is broken now, but his presence in my life has been a gift. And that is what I will carry with me.
Love you, big dog. I’ll miss you oh so very much.
My heart still aches today, and will for a long time. Our house that once seemed small with three dogs underfoot is now painfully, painfully empty.
I wanted to let go of Hoops the same way I brought him into my life, just him and I. So I drove while he rode shotgun next to me in the car, occasionally nudging my hand for more petting. Hoops returned from getting his IV in the back and perked up considerably at the sight of me. He even gave me one last kiss on the cheek, before settling in my lap. His passing was as peaceful as I could make it. In the end, it was just me and him lying on the floor together.
We’ll receive his ashes back next week. I’ll bury them in our front yard, under the shade of the big elm tree. It was his favorite place to lay, and that way, he can always keep an eye on me. He took that job so seriously in life, protecting me. Maybe, just maybe, he can keep on looking out for me and mine from the Great Beyond. RIP Buddy. You were loved.