For the love of Dog
November 17, 2015
When you bring a pet into your life, it is with the understanding you will likely escort it out of this world. But knowing that doesn’t make it any easier when the time comes. It doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking.
This weekend, I said goodbye to Boston, my Yellow Lab/Great Dane mix I adopted almost 14 years ago. I don’t know that I’ll ever have a more loyal, loving dog. Boston’s main joy in life was being with me. He was a mama’s boy ’til the last beat of his heart. Both times it stopped.
Boston’s love for me was so strong he died once, but, seeing my grief, he came back. About two months ago, Boston collapsed in my living room. He was limp and stopped breathing. I couldn’t feel his heartbeat. He was dead. I pulled him into my lap and sobbed uncontrollably. Thirty seconds later, he started twitching and opened his eyes and began breathing again. Then, with much effort, he sat up. He came back from the dead.
It’s an unbelievable story. So unbelievable I had an animal communicator come over a few weeks later to find out what happened. As she communicated with Boston, she started to cry and told me: "Boston was ready to go. But he saw how sad you were and he was worried about you, so he stopped the process. That’s very difficult for a dog to do."
Boston gave me nine more weeks. He gave me time to say goodbye and try to find some peace in a life without him. It certainly didn’t make the second time he died any less painful, but knowing he was ready and he was only hanging on for me, made it necessary.
When I adopted him as a scared, abandoned, skinny puppy, I promised him I would love him and take care of him for the rest of his life. What I didn’t think about at the time is this: Taking care of him also meant I would help him at the end of his life. It meant I would ease his pain and allow him to pass with dignity. It meant I would separate love and mercy. It nearly gutted me, but I kept my promise.
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Most of his life, Boston weighed about 100 pounds. He kind of looked like a yellow lab on stilts. In fact, one time he apparently looked like a mountain lion. Years ago I was walking on the Rail Trail with him and there had been mountain lion sightings in the area. People were on edge. It was dark and had snowed all day. He was a few steps behind me, letting me break trail in my snowshoes, and a driver on 248 stopped and began yelling at me. "Lady, hey lady! There’s a mountain lion right behind you!"
His scream was filled with dread. He thought Boston was going to eat me. Not yet realizing it was a case of mistaken identity, I panicked, quickly turning and running towards Boston to protect him. If we went down, we were going down together, I figured.
That’s when the man’s voice grew shrill. "You’re running right at it," he screamed.
I then realized what was happening, hollered back that it was my dog and we continued our walk in the deep, fresh snow.
That was many years ago, long before Boston’s body started to fail him. The past few months have not been pleasant for either of us. He was still alert and happy when I was with him, but I knew he was miserable not being able to get up on his own. He seemed embarrassed I had to help him outside and mortified when he had an accident inside.
I knew I was going to have to make a decision soon, but he still had good days, and that made me feel like I was rushing things. But then he’d have bad days and I felt selfish for keeping him going.
In the end, I decided it was better to do it a week too soon then a minute too late.
There is nothing that breaks you like having to call the vet and schedule an appointment for your dog’s death.
I had to keep reminding myself of the wonderful life I gave him. He never lacked love or food or shelter. He’d been to some beautiful places: Lake Powell, Jackson Hole, Moab, Zion, Escalante, and of course, all over Park City and our surrounding mountains. He even swam in the Pacific Ocean once, when we road tripped to Southern California. All in all, he had a better life than a lot of people do.
But that doesn’t stop the tears from spilling onto my keyboard as I type this. It doesn’t stop my heart from hurting. Grief is the price we pay for love.
There are so many wonderful things about a dog. They see you at your worst and love you anyway. They don’t judge. They only offer pure, innocent and truly unconditional love. They also have the ability to find joy in almost anything. Things we find mundane or even annoying mean tail-wagging elation to a dog.
Boston was delighted every time we went for a ride in the car, even if it was just to get gas. He loved hiking and swimming. And being mostly lab, he was a true foodie. No tomato was safe in my garden when he was around, and he considered deer poop a delicacy.
He had funny quirks, too, that made him unique. He hated having his toes touched. Magpies and the vacuum were his archenemies. He chattered his teeth when he was nervous or scared. And he hated floors. Eventually he realized they were an integral part of getting from one place to the next, but he always raised a wary eye and walked with trepidation on any new surface.
So it’s a good thing he now has wings.
Rest in peace, sweet B-man. Thank you for all the years of love, loyalty and friendship. And thank you for choosing me. Good boy.
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