This post comes over two months late. I began writing it weeks ago, but couldn’t bring myself to finish it and click “publish.” As many of you who follow me on Facebook and Instagram know already, my dear Buddy passed away on March 30th. It was a painful yet special day, and I wanted to write about it and share my heart.
My sweet Buddy’s health started to really decline about two years ago. There was no conclusive diagnosis as to what was going on with him, except old age and arthritis. For the most part, he had good days. Sure, he slept a lot more, lost weight and muscle, climbed onto the couch less and less. But he was still a happy boy, always excited for food and car rides, always following me to the bathroom. Occasionally he would have a bad day, where his legs just didn’t want to cooperate or his stomach was messed up. Back in October, he had a bad episode where he possibly pinched a nerve and was in a great deal of pain. After a frantic visit to the vet for medicine and laser therapy, he recovered quickly and was back to normal in about a week. He had more accidents in the house, more days where he needed help getting up, but nothing too terrible or painful for him.
After five months with no horribly bad days, Buddy had a repeat of the October incident. Since we had seen him in that kind of pain before, I noticed it much earlier and wasn’t quite as panicked as the first time. I tried to hard to keep Buddy still while we waited to leave for the vet, but even in pain, he wanted to follow me around the house. He was still trying to look after me, even though he could barely go three steps without needing to lay down. TJ came home early and carried Buddy from the house to the car, and from the car to the vet. We followed the same treatment measures as before, trying to manage the pain and make Buddy comfortable again. We left with medicine and the hope that he would be back to normal in a few days, just like last time.
But that hope dwindled after a rough weekend. He seemed to be better, but not like before. It was taking him longer to act normal again. Then he began having explosive diarrhea in the house. He couldn’t even get up to tell us he had to go, he’d lay there and soil himself. We saw it coming once, and I rushed to lift him up. Even with my hands to help him, he couldn’t gather his legs under himself and was dead weight in my arms. This went on for a couple of days, Buddy growing more pitiful with each accident. I knew he couldn’t keep having days like this, but it was hard to know if it was “time” or not.
Exactly a week after his initial vet visit, Buddy had another bad accident in the wee hours of the morning. We got up and cleaned up the mess, took Buddy out to potty, and went back to sleep. When we woke up again a few hours later, Buddy didn’t want to get up. He tried to bite TJ when he attempted to pick Buddy up so he could go potty and get his breakfast. Buddy is the sweetest boy, and he wouldn’t try to bite us if something wasn’t really wrong, if he wasn’t trying to send us a clear message. I reluctantly accepted that message and knew that he was ready, even if I wasn’t.
TJ handled the logistics and called Lap of Love. In the last years of Buddy’s life, I decided that if he didn’t pass on his own and we had to assist, I wanted a vet to come to our home, where he would be most comfortable. I found Lap of Love and knew that was the best route for us. I wanted to schedule for the following day, but there was no availability, so I had to say goodbye to Buddy the same day we called. I wanted our last hours together to be peaceful and happy. Some family and friends came over to say goodbye to Buddy. So many people loved him. We bought him a new bone, which he didn’t want to chew on, but he definitely wanted to keep it away from Truman. We took photos together. We gave him a big bowl of vanilla ice cream, which he slowly savored until the bowl was licked clean. We sat under the oak tree in our front yard, enjoying the sunshine and our last moments together.
When it was time, we went inside and placed Buddy on the couch. I sat with him, his head resting on my lap. When Dr Annie arrived, she said Buddy could stay right where he was, because he was comfortable. She was so sweet and kind, taking her time explaining the process, encouraging me that it was clearly Buddy’s time. She could tell he was ready, and her evaluation reassured me and settled any doubts that were in my mind. TJ, Truman, and I sat with Buddy, saying our goodbyes. I told him over and over how much I loved him, what a good, good boy he was. I laid my head on his and wet his fur with my tears. He passed so peacefully in my arms, it was like he had fallen asleep. I have never felt such relief and pain intermingled. I have never cried like I cried when we said goodbye.
When I was ready, TJ helped Dr Annie carry Buddy away. We chose to have him cremated, and his remains now rest in a pretty cherry wood box on our mantle. I look up countless times every day and see his named engraved on the box, next to his pawprint and little bundle of his hair. I see his leash hanging by the door every time I take Truman for a walk. I kept his bed beside ours and Truman now sleeps in it every night. There are little reminders of Buddy everywhere I turn. And even when I see no physical reminders of our life with Buddy, I carry his memory in my heart everywhere I go.
The best decision I could make for Buddy was the worst decision I could make for myself. Choosing to love him and give him what he needed, even though it was the last thing in the world I ever wanted to experience, was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Saying goodbye to someone who was a constant, precious presence in my life for 12 years was heartbreaking. To those who have had to do this before, I now understand the pain you feel. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But that’s what happens with dogs, I guess. They come into your life and you love them more than you ever thought possible. But their lives are short. In choosing to love them, we choose the pain of losing them, whether we realize it or not. I know this is not the last time I will experience this kind of heartache. I will love many more dogs in my life. I will eventually lose them. But as close as they may come, none will ever hold the kind of place in my heart that Buddy held. He was my right-hand man, my best friend, my shadow, my muse, my protector. Always and forever my heart dog.