Sorry for the provocative headline, but it’s how I feel. I had to put my dog Shadow to sleep today after 14 wonderful years of having him as a companion. If you remember, we had to do the same with his son Fridge back in October. These things are never easy, but this was harder for me.
Back in the summer of 1994, my wife and I had gone to a pet store. As we went by one of the cages, a little puppy (who HAD been quiet) pawed at the window and barked at me. When I looked in his window, he wiggled and barked and jumped around. I fell in love. This little fuzz ball picked me, he wanted me to be his owner. Unfortunately at the time, my wife and I didn’t have much money. We had just gotten out of college and couldn’t really afford a purebred dog. I reluctantly put him back in his cage and we left the dejected pooch behind.
I had to go to a training session out of town for a few days, and when I got back I stopped by my in-laws to pick up my wife. When I did I heard a little bark, and Shadow came bounding towards me. My wife and mother-in-law worked it out so Shadow could have me as his pet. And make no mistake, he was my dog, and I was his. I’ve never had a better animal as a pet. Shadow was smart, stubborn and had attitude (sound familiar?) and loved me and our family with all of his heart. It was completely reciprocated.
Shadow had really been a part of my entire adult life. He was with me from when I sold stereo equipment, to selling RV’s, to Banking, to the decade-plus Lotus career. He comforted me when I got laid off and spent three months smoking cigars on the deck with him at my side. He stood vigilant next to the bassinets when both girls were born. He slept on or next to my bed his entire life. He was always with us in whatever room we were in, because he didn’t want to be anywhere else. He licked tears from my face when I was sad, and danced around the room with me when I was happy. He truly was the best friend a dog could be.
Tonight I carried him into the doctor’s office and put him on the table. I removed his collar and got down and looked him in the eyes. I petted him and reassured him that soon he wouldn’t be in any pain. Tears streamed down my face and I kissed him when the needle went in. He looked at me and seemed a little scared, but then got calm, and laid down on his side and stopped breathing. He never closed his eyes.
I have no clue why I feel the need to write this all down. Maybe it’s just Greiving 2.0, I dunno. I know there are real problems in the world, and having to put down a 14 year-old dog who’s lived a full life isn’t a big one. But I feel like a part of me is gone. I haven’t cried like this in a very long time. Just writing it down, and knowing his memory is saved is making me feel better.
I was tweeting about this all day on Twitter, and I want to thank everyone for their kind words, tweets and emails. It means the world to me.
The picture at the beginning of this post is my favorite of Shadow. By accident I got a halo over his head. He always had this “Who me?” look, and that epitomized it. Seemed like an apropos picture today. And if you want to see what he looked like as a pup (and how young my wife and I looked) check out this picture of Shadow and Keesha on our laps. Shadow is the pup. He grew up to be a wonderful dog. Thanks for everything buddy. I love you.