We met you in May of 2004 at the Humane Society. You were the only dog who could have cared less that there were humans walking around. While all the other dogs barked and barked at us, you lay on the floor curled up and awake, yet quiet and uninterested. We almost passed you by but after mentioning you to one of the employees they said you were a good boy and that we should take you out for a walk. Once outside you perked right up and wanted to sniff everything and explore and didn't seem at all like the dog you were inside. We were hooked.
We agreed to take you home and took care of the necessary arrangements. Your name was Champ because the Humane Society had picked you up on the side of the road, very injured in what they assumed was a fight with another dog. We were told you were maybe two years old at most. The Humane Society fixed you up and you healed like a, well, like a champ. We decided to rename you Baxter.
We brought you home.
We quickly realized that you had a ton of energy and a massive amount of fur. Every season was shedding season. We would take you for walks and you would literally pull us the entire way. You had a keen sense of smell and could always find the squirrels and deer way before we could even see them. You managed to find ways to escape and took advantage of them every single time, leading us to believe you spent a lot of time roaming free before you came home with us.
You always came back.
When our daughter was born and we had just brought her home she cried in my arms very loudly. You came right up and got into my face curious of what could possibly be making that sound. I was nervous at first, not sure what you would do with a baby around, but you seemed to figure out that it was going to be all right. Annoying, but all right.
Our son was born two and a half years later and we moved to a larger house closer to town. We had a fully fenced back yard and could finally let you out without a leash. Sometimes if the wind was just right and you smelled something appealing you would get so excited you figured out how to jump over the gate and take off in pursuit. The neighbors started to figure out who you belonged to and would try to grab you for us when you were off on one of your adventures. If you were gone too long we would really start to worry but as before, you always came back. Still it wasn't safe for you to take off so we put in a taller gate.
Oh how you could run.
The years passed by quickly, the kids grew older and so did you. You were slowing down, walking more than running. Anxious. Grey. But happy. Always happy. And shedding. Always shedding.
You lost your hearing and got arthritis in your hips. Your eyes got a little cloudy and you lost a lot of teeth. But you were happy and your tail wagged and you loved your treats and your meals and your walks, even though they were shorter because you just couldn't go very far anymore.
Over the last year or so your arthritis and anxiety got worse. You developed kidney disease and started having accidents in the house. You were on six different medications to help with all of your issues. We had to help you get up sometimes and you weren't always steady on your feet. We still walked you, but not very far. We knew our time with you was growing short. But we kept trying to keep you comfortable.
We just weren't ready.
Months pass and we are close to fall. The colors are changing everywhere and the kids are back in school. You are sleeping more than you are awake. You are tired. You are in pain. We watch you struggle to get up, if you can get up at all. You seem sad.
Your tail stops wagging.
We know it is time to say goodbye. One of your humans waits almost two days to call the vet because they just can't get the courage to make the call. When they do, they sob the entire time and for well afterward. It's the big ugly cry too.
We have a few days.
Sometimes, we want to cancel the appointment. Maybe you can hold out a little longer. Maybe THIS isn't the right time. Maybe next week. But we don't cancel and the days go by. We tell some friends. We tell the kids.
We love on you hard, the treats are flowing constantly.
We say goodbye to you on a Friday afternoon. Four of your humans go with you, the other one wishes they could be there. We bring your bed so you don't have to lay down on the hard floor. We have to go to a different room because you can't walk all the way to the other room. The staff at the vet are so kind and they bring you a bowl of chicken and a whole entire plate of chocolate glazed donuts. Real donuts. You eat all the chicken and two of the donuts.
We say goodbye.
It's over far too quick and we are stunned. One of the kids lays on you and doesn't want to leave you there alone. We sob. We kiss you goodbye. The kids gently leave notes for you under your paw. We kiss you again. And we leave.
We go home.
We put a funny movie on the TV and everyone sleeps in the same room. The next few days pass in a flurry of planned activities. We keep busy. It is hard to leave the house because leaving means coming home and coming home means we might come in and forget for just a second that you're not there to greet us. Which we do. More than once.
It's so quiet.
The house gets vacuumed and we realize your fur is not going to be all over the place anymore and we cry. We come downstairs and think we're going to see you then suddenly remember you are gone and we cry. We notice the food and water dish are never empty anymore, the other pets don't consume as much as you do and we cry. We see your pills and realize we don't have to give them to you anymore and we cry.
We miss you and we cry.
One of these days we will gather up your things that remind us daily that you are not here and put them away. One of these days we will think about you and remember you with laughter and happiness for all that you brought to our life, even the massive amount of fur, instead of sadness. One of these days we will get used to not having you in our home, we will get used to the quiet.
But not today.