A Thank You Note For My Dog

12 November 2013
Disclaimer:  This is about my dog.  A thank you note.  He deserved it.


This past week I had to put my dog down.

On Tuesday evening when we got home from school my two girls screamed from the entry way "Dad, Carter can't get up."
Carter, you see, was our 11 year-old lab mix.  He was the first dog my wife and I got before we were even married.  I can still remember walking into the pound seeing his face and ever-wagging tail--it was immediate.  This was my dog.  He and I left the pound together that day.
When my daughters said those word I immediately knew the implications that were beginning to take shape.  My stomach dropped as I went inside and saw my lively companion struggling to stand because his hind legs had completely stopped working.  I knew.
Carter was one of those ninety pound lap dogs.  You know, the ones that always want to be right beside you no matter where you are.  He was always at my feet or my wife's.  It was comforting.  It was calming.  His favorite trick included jumping on the couch and "accidentally " falling into your lap from the sitting position.  As much as we hated that trick--we loved it.
For the past two months our big guy had been dealing with some unexplained medical issues.  We'd had multiple visits to the vet, scans, blood draws, and more.  His legs had begun to go out on him in the past but after some medication and was doing better and walking.

Sitting next to Carter I grabbed my phone and called my mom.  Before I could spit the words out I lost it.  She knew.  

My daughters knew.  I had to laugh because my youngest is pretty blunt.  "Is Carter gonna die?"  "I don't know," was my response.  But I did.
As a family this was not our first go-around with losing a pet.  Eighteen months ago our other dog, Radar,  passed away at my wife's feet on Easter Sunday.  She stood up from the couch, laid down beside her, and passed away.  We'd gone through the tears, questions, and sorrow.  This was different.
Carter was the great protector.  He never let a helicopter land in our yard, always barked at fireworks to alert us, and never let a person in the front door without sniffing their crotch for explosive devices.  His tail was weapon secretly wagging it back and forth to knock small children over, break glasses on tables, and hit more people in the crotch with it.  He was good.

I called my wife and let her know what was going on and that my plan was to take him in.  She was at work and wouldn't be home for a while, but I couldn't stand the sight of him helplessly falling over, losing control of his bowels, and possibly hurting himself even further.  It was time.

My wife and I had had this conversation many times in the months leading up to this exact point.  At what point would we know?  It's a question with an answer that just happens.  You just know.  I knew.  It was time.

I called my girls over to say goodbye.  They said he needed some treats and he gladly accepted them.  He then tried to snag the pizza slice my oldest daughter was holding.  Good boy.  Always thinking.  

The drive to the vet took about 20 minutes.  A long twenty minutes.  This is the same dog that could never sit down when inside a vehicle.  He had to stand and look out every window, then move seats and do it all over again.  For this ride he laid down in the back, completely.  He knew.

Carter came into my family with just me when I snagged him from the pound, it was fitting that he would leave our family with just me.  We both sat on the floor in the room.  He then proceeded to stand up when the doctor came in.  My jaw dropped.  In the two hours at home this hadn't happened.  I laughed because I felt like he was playing with me.  Like when we would play catch, except I would throw it and then go pick it.  
The doctor assured me this was only adrenaline--within twenty seconds he was back on the floor next to me.  That was his last stand.
When it came to house training Carter he was a rock star.  In his entire life he only peed on the carpet twice (as a puppy during training).  He had the bladder of a camel.  The only other time there was an accident was this past May--yet even during that sickness that he actually ran to every door in the house trying and get outside.  How do we know this you might ask?  Well, his explosive diarrhea was at every single door of the house where he tried to leave.  I could not have been more proud of him.  Nice work buddy.
In the room he laid on the floor.  I sat next to him.  We had some time with each other.  There was no talking.  He was tired.  

The doctor entered walked me through the process.  Then she began and within two minutes it was over.  My companion.  My dog.  I didn't cry.  I wept.

We can call it a connection or a bond, ultimately it doesn't really matter.  The fact remains that Carter was a companion for my entire family for the past eleven years.  This will be the first time we take a holiday photo without him.  He will be missed.

The first few nights after he was gone I found myself stepping over where he laid beside our bed.  Eleven years of muscle memory is hard to break.

Carter was the same dog that scared himself when he would fart.  He was big.  He was sometimes goofy.  He was also ours.

A few nights ago when checking on my youngest daughter in bed she asked "Is Carter in heaven playing with Radar?"

"I think so," I said. 

Dogs aren't people.  I know that.  There is no comparison, but the devotion he showed to us cannot be discounted.  It's very easy for me to compartmentalize the actions that took place from the feelings that I hold for him.  For eleven years he made us laugh, kept us warm, growled when we tickled his feet, and answered each time we called him.  I wouldn't have had it any other way.




I'm linking up with Holly at Fourth Grade Flipper.  Based on everything I felt it was appropriate to share as something I've tried:  Being a dog owner.  It's not for everyone, but it is for me.  For those wondering, we do have another 18 month old Husky-Schnauzer mix.  We still thinks she's a little lost without him too.  She has been with him since she was six weeks old, so Carter taught her all the good tricks such as how to eat cat litter, drink out of a toilet, steal food off of little children's plates, and answer any time we call.  We're going to be just fine.



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