Yesterday our family made the hardest decision concerning our most loyal friend who always gave us unconditional trust and love. We put down our dog Clancy who unbeknownst to us was suffering from a fast spreading cancer. His condition deteriorated quickly over the last few days and an emergency run to the veterinarian revealed the deadly diagnosis. He never came home again. His mind remained sharp and his spirit never faltered right to the end but his body gave out on him. It was the right thing to do, but that knowledge provides little comfort.
Please indulge my conceit that yesterday was a very bad, no good day.
To some, grieving for just a dog makes little sense given the suffering of children under relentless bombing in Syria, war in Afghanistan, or the mass exodus of a million refugees from Venezuela. But he wasn’t “just a dog.” He came into our lives twelve years ago during one of the most stressful periods of our family life and daily brought us joy and put a smile on our faces. During his lifetime he had two major surgeries that took weeks of recovery and of course the final outrage of cancer. Not once in his lifetime did we hear him whimper or cry. Never. Even as the vet told us yesterday that he must have been in great pain from the cancer and resulting tumor. He always tried his best to please us and to make us happy. And he did exactly that.
I have owned dogs most of my life. This one was special. I always gave him the highest canine compliment that I know — he was a good dog.
Not that he was perfect. No dog is. He could be very stubborn. But in nearly every case, he came through in the end. He was a great traveler, having made two round trips across the country by car. He visited more than a dozen national parks throughout the nation. In a lot of ways he was lucky to have us and he had more adventures than many people. So many adventures over the years. Unfortunately, the numbers of adventures large and small dwindled as the years caught up to us. But he was always game to try, even if his body could not respond to what his mind was telling him he wanted to do. His last adventure was last week when he went on a walk with my wife down to our community beach. He loved the water and loved going down there. Little did we know that would be the last time as on the following day, his condition started to concern us.
All he really wanted was to be with his “pack” (our family) and to go in the car. He was always up for a “road trip” be it running errands around town or heading out on a month-long excursion. Oh, and maybe a little tuna juice on his dog food. He had a sixth sense about those cans — he would show up in the kitchen at the mere sound of a can coming out of the pantry. But only tuna cans.
He was the sheriff of our quiet street. Anyone or anything that came near would hear the loud barking of an obviously big dog. It was his sacred duty to keep an eye on things and to alert us to anything that was “different.” But once a visitor entered our doorway, he had a new best friend forever.
His life with us began and ended the same way. He picked us out as his family as a six month old puppy when we were visiting the county pound. As we walked by his run, he got down on his side and reached under the gate to stick his paw out to try to touch us. It worked. When we took him home he was literally skin and bones. He was abandoned on the streets prior to arriving at the pound and had a tooth and jaw problem that made eating painful. We should have paid closer attention to his feet, which were nearly the size of a baseball. Once a dentist fixed his teeth and he could eat without pain, that scrawny pup turned into a 120 pound muscled specimen. But a big dog without a mean bone in his body. If it is possible for a dog to have a kind soul, he had one. Putting out a paw and touching was his trademark throughout his life. He always put that paw out to touch anyone that pet him. As humans do, I turned that into a series of “shake” and “say hello” and other routines that entertained kids when they came to visit. He never failed to deliver. His last act before quietly and gently leaving us was to reach out his paw and touch my hand.
He was a good dog. Farewell my friend.