I have never known a day of my life without a dog in our family. We love our dogs so much and consider them “people” in our family. To date we have had Christy (Brittany Spaniel), T-Bone (Brittany Spaniel – son of Christy), Beau I (Yellow Labrador Retriever), Belle (Black Labrador Retriever), Marti (Australian Cattle Dog), Cody (Black Labrador – sister of Belle) and Beau II (Yellow Labrador Retriever). All have passed on prior to today except Marti, Cody and Beau II.
This week my Mom called letting me know that our dog Marti was at the vets office as (at age 14) her kidneys were having issues and she was trying a form of dialysis to see if it made her feel better. After a rough and restless night, Mom called again this morning while I was at work letting me know that Marti was not getting better and in fact seemed worse. Dad was gone for work and after a heavy conference call with the family we decided to help relieve Marti of her pain today rather than prolong it.
Marti was one when Kimberly and I rescued her from a guy we refer to as “Scum Neighbor.” He neglected this sweet, adorable fuzzball by keeping her out in the rain on his apartment porch for days and locked up inside alone by herself the others. We would wake up every morning and look out our window only to see her sweet face. Kimberly wondered what kind of dog she was as we had never seen such markings, color and build before. I walked over one day to ask Scum Neighbor what type of dog she was and after seeing that he was also barricading her in the kitchen with a Futon bed, I asked what he was going to do with her. He pretty much shoved her leash and her gear into my hands and told me I could have her. I didn’t think twice and took her home for good.
Marti was with Kimberly and me for many years until we had our second baby. Marti’s breed is serious by nature and she was a bit short on patience with the babies at times. Mom and Dad’s sweet black lab Belle had become Marti’s “sister” over time so it was easy when we decided that it would be best for Marti to spend some time at my parents house (aka “Camp Stonebriar”) up near Dallas. Mom and Dad spoiled and loved her like a princess too. Marti eventually settled in and stayed with them, always a part of our family. Sister Belle passed on in September 2010 and for the past year and a half Marti was an only “child.”
We love our dogs. I could not be there with my yellow lab, Beau, when he died in 1998. Today Marti was only 202 miles away and after the call with my family I set out on the four hour drive from Austin to my parents house to be with her. Most people would think I was crazy as, after all, it is “just a dog.” Marti like all of our dogs loved me and my family unconditionally every one of her days. She was my friend and family and she deserved to have me there with her.
It was a clear Texas day today on the road but my vision was obscured most of the way to Dallas. I must have shed a tear every one of the 202 miles although I would wager it was more. I know my wife was sad and hurting having to stay home to answer the kids questions about where I was and explain Marti’s condition. We texted a bit when I stopped as it seemed to be understood that neither of us would make it through a conversation on phone.
As I neared my parents house I let Mom know that I needed a few minutes alone with Marti. She had been in the office all day on her favorite blanket with her head on her favorite toy being cared for by my mother. When I walked in and said her name her ears moved and she looked up and gave a single wag of her tail (a big effort for her condition I am sure).
Mom stepped out and closed the door. I called home so my wife could speak with and sing to Marti (we had made up hundreds of Marti songs over the years). Marti’s ears moved as my wife sung and spoke to her. Marti loved Kimberly to pieces. Each of the kids told her they loved her but did not seem to understand the seriousness of the day.
Mom and I lifted our sweet girl up while she was still on her bed and put her in the back of the car. I crawled in, work clothes and company badge still on and laid down with my friend. I pet her, kissed her nose and sang her some more of her favorite Marti songs. We called home again and Kimberly spoke with Marti some more. Marti was the first great thing Kimberly and I did together as a couple and we both wanted her to know that we were with her.
I am glad Mom chose a Vet that was a distance from their house and I was grateful for the additional 20 minutes alone with my dog. We arrived at the doggy hospital and Mom took a final picture of me kissing my fuzzy friend (shown here) before the staff took her in to be examined by the doctor. I was not ashamed to be seen crying as a 42 year old man for at that moment I felt like a ten year old boy again.
We laid Marti down on her bed on the table with her toy. I scratched her. Kissed her nose. Her breathing became heavier and more labored. I sang her one final Marti song. I told her how much we loved her, that I was sorry for her first terrible puppy year with Scum Neighbor but that I hoped everyday with us she felt like a princess. I sang her one more Marti song and asked her to tell Cristy, T-Bone, Beau and Belle that their boy misses and loves them everyday, is well and will see them all again someday. My nose was to hers and arm hugging her when her heart stopped at 6:15pm. I hugged her for 10 more minutes but I knew our Marti was gone, out of pain and at peace.
Goodbye sweet girl…sweet friend…our sweet Marti!
Mom and I ate a silent meal tonight where the void was obvious. We both turned to look for our friend like we always did at a meal only to remember she was not there. When a piece of meat fell from the table there was no quick tongue to snatch up the savory treat.
In a world where so much is given only with condition I am thankful and honored to have had such fine fuzzy friends as part of my family and am grateful everyday for their pure unconditional love.
Today this “boy” drives home and by the time I reach Austin I will have the duty of a man and father to break the news to my kids with my wife. It will be hard but I know I will have our newly rescued one year old lab Beau faithfully curled up by my side supporting me and my family.