We took a little break between dog #1 and dog #2. During this break we moved into a larger home and had another child. Dog #2 came along about seven years after we lost Dog #1.
In the 1990’s yuppies (of which I was one of) were living in suburbia with their Volvo’s, 2.5 kids and either a Labrador or Golden retriever. We had all the trappings of the lifestyle except for the dog. The kids were growing and the oldest wanted a dog and I was ready for one myself. Not desiring to be ostracized by my yuppie brethren we got a lab.
If you know anything about labs, you know that between the years 0 and 3 they chew everything within their reach. Chairs, hoses, doors, trees, grills, seat cushions, cars, kids you name it a lab will chew on it. It can be a stressful time particularly when your wife is constantly saying “We can’t have anything nice outside”. But if you can survive it, typically, you will have a great dog for years 4 on.
Labs are loyal, hardheaded, protective and energetic. Dog #2 LOVED our children! Maybe too much at times. If they were in the backyard playing he was in the middle of it. He never grasped the concept of play dates with other friends. He assumed if they were in his yard that came over to play with him. He did not appreciate being excluded or penned up. Also, labs love water, really love water. I bought a cattle trough that I kept filled to the brim so he could take hourly soaks, even in the dead of winter with ice forming on the top. Watching him shake himself next to my children provide endless hours of entertainment and screams.
After Dog #1 I thought I could never love another creature, but I was wrong. Just as Dog #1 was the perfect addition to our family at that time, so was Dog #2. When the kids were out playing, and he was on patrol we never had an ounce of worry. He was the older, four-legged brother and he took his role very seriously.
As the years passed and the kids got older they spent less and less time in the backyard playing. Entertaining Dog #2 became my responsibility, one I gladly accepted. Chasing a tennis ball or sharing a little taste of beer with Dad in the evening became our ritual. For a lab, Dog #2 was a big boy, 100 lbs., and the years of chasing kids, squirrels and tennis balls took a toll on his hips. By the age of 12 he had difficulty walking and mornings were a horrible time for him.
During our last visit to the vet, she recommended we put him down. His quality of life was diminishing but I really struggled with the decision. What compounded the problem was that he would have a good day which encouraged me to hold on a little longer. Then one morning he was really struggling to get moving. I also noticed that he had urinated on his bed and himself overnight. I could see the shame in his eyes which broke my heart. I got him moving, washed him off and told my wife that I was going to take him to the vet at lunch and have him put down. I was heartbroken, just as I am now as I recount this for you.
I went to my office, but I couldn’t focus on work. I kept replying all the memories I had of this wonderful animal. During the summer months I would move his trough under some bushes so he could jump in and then lie in the cool shade. One of my kids called me, Dog #2 hadn’t moved from his favorite spot in a while and they didn’t want to check on him without me. I raced home to find that my friend, as he had done his entire life, had continued to take care of his family. Dog #2 went out on his own terms reliving me of a hard and heart wrenching decision, saying goodbye the best way he knew how.