Wednesday, August 13, 2008

South...



Today I had to say good bye to an old friend. He has been getting on in years and lately he just hasn't been himself. The last couple of days I could tell he wasn't feeling good and I knew it was time. I just wish it wasn't so hard to let him go....

South has been a part of my family's life for the past ten years or so. My husband's best friend found him wandering on the streets when she was a home-health nurse and she brought him to us. He was a young and vibrant dog then, and had a tendency to climb over our six foot fence and go visiting when he got bored at home. A thyroid problem put an end to those frolicking days, however, as it caused him to get fat and impossible for him to heave his bulk over the fences anymore. But we made up for it by making sure he had a soft bed to sleep on and other doggy friends to hang out with at home.

South was the most patient dog I have ever known. Over the years we brought many a puppy and several dogs that we rescued into our home and he was a mentor and beneficent big brother to all of them. Sky. our Aussie pup, was fascinated by his tail, having never seen one before since neither she nor her parents sported one, and she would spend hours gnawing happily on the end of it. And he let her. When he got tired of her he would just get up and gently move away and she would gambol off and find something new to distract herself with.

South was always gentle. He never growled, never lifted his lip, never got disgruntled with anyone--except when I tried to brush his petticoats. THEN he got a little peeved, but never more than a glare and maybe a little push of his head as if to say "hey, have a care there--that hurts!".

My children have grown up with him as their protector, their floor rug, their couch pillow. He had a tendency to lay in the hall right at the doorway to the kitchen so that he could see everything and everyone in the house. Of course, that meant having to step over his hairy self many times a day but he didn't seem to mind! He was in the middle of his family and he was content.

When he first came to live with us, I remember getting exasperated with him because he was in the middle of my kitchen, which was small, and he was in the way because he was very large. I finally threw my hands in the air and exclaimed "Would you please sit down or lay down or roll over or something?!!" and much to my astonishment he proceeded to roll over! I was floored--I have never seen a full-sized shepherd/husky cross do a trick like that! I thought it was a fluke so I grabbed a cookie and said "Do it again--roll over!" And he did it again and sat up and laughed at me! How I would give anything right now to see that face laughing up into mine right now....

But he got old. His hips were very painful and the pain meds didn't seem to do much for him any more. His skin was itchy from the thyroid problems, and he didn't want to eat. I knew then that something must be very wrong, because South has always loved his food. At one point he was about 120 pounds for awhile and we had to cut him back to help ease the pain in his hips and joints. I knew he was in pain, but as long as he still had joy in his life and still loved his food I figured the quality of his life was good.

But the joy has been gone for over a week now. He has been laying around, listless and sad. I could tell by his body posture that he wasn't feeling good. And then he stopped eating and I knew. I knew.

I thought I was ready for it. I told the kids. Called my god daughter and told her so she could come and tell him good bye, because he was her dog first. He didn't even lift her head up when she came in the door and she started to cry. She knew it was the end also.

So my daughter, her boyfriend, and I took South on his last car ride. He always loved to go in the car--he would stand behind me and bark at the oncoming cars--believe me, I have had my share of near-misses because of being startled by a loud "WOOOFF!" in my ear at 50mph! The vet looked at him and couldn't really find anything wrong with him other than that he was in pain and very old--South was about 14 or 15 years old, which is a long life for a large dog. He said we could do tests but that really we would only be prolonging the inevitable. So I called my husband--South was really his dog after all--and asked him what I should do and what the doctor had said and we both agreed that if would be best to let South go. We didn't want him to suffer any more.

So I sat on the floor and cuddled his head in my lap and told him how much I loved him, and how he had been the best dog in the world and how much I was going to miss him. My daughter sobbed on his chest as the doctor put in the IV and sent him on his way to the Rainbow Bridge. I told him to give my love to Bahubhj when he got there and to wait for me, and he was gone.... It was simple, peaceful, and so deserved for such a loving friend.

It was when I got home that I realized that I have never walked into this house without him being here to greet me, and I fell apart. It hurts. Oh God, it hurts. I thought I could deal with it but it hurts a lot more than I thought it would.

I love you, South. You were one in a million. Good bye, old friend. I will miss you. Thank you for sharing your life and your love with me and my family. If dogs have souls I know I will see you again someday and we will go for a walk together just like we use to and I can run my hands through your thick fur and all will be good in my world again.

I love you South.

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