The day was crisp and the leaves were on the ground. We knew as soon as we saw him that he would be the one. The others were silly, jumping on our little boy, but not him. He was careful, but curious. While the others ran and jumped, rolling around on the leaf covered ground at our feet, he was solemn, but smiling, patiently waiting for us to make our decision. Which one would be our pick? It was an easy decision to make.
As we went home that day he rode in the back with our boy, soon to be “his” boy. We decided on a name on the way. We would call him “Doc” and it seemed to fit. As soon as we got home we threw a stick and off he went to retrieve it. That would start it all; the seemingly never-ending games of fetch. Hours on end would be spent in the next 10 years throwing a ball, Frisbee, or stick for his enjoyment. His favorite thing on earth, that is next to just sitting and letting Jeff rub his head until he fell over. Nothing like a good ear rub.
It’s just a dog you say. ‘Just a dog?’ I’ve tried to say that to myself over the past several weeks. ‘Don’t be so silly, he’s just a dog.’ I say this over and over, but I can’t seem to make myself believe it. No, to me he is not just a dog. Let me try to explain.
We all considered him part of the family and right away he loved us all. But for whatever reason it was, he seemed to adopt me as his master or maybe his mother. Maybe it was because I spent so much time with him, holding him, babying him, and teaching him tricks. I don’t know why, but I was the one. He would wake me up in the morning with his wet nose nuzzling under my arm. “Time to get up!” he’d wag. Reluctantly I’d get up and out we’d go to see what the day would be. Of course, he loved our boys too. I caught him one morning crawling up in bed with Samuel. The big old pup trying to get in a little bunk bed. What a comical site to say the least. He and Samuel were buddies and he never minded being a pillow for Samuel while he watched cartoons. Anything to be with his family. Doc and Paul would go for walks around the yard as Paul would run after bugs to put in his grasshopper cage. Wherever we went, Doc was sure to go and if he didn’t get to, boy, what a fuss he would make in his pen. When I went to town he would wait in the front yard for my return and hop up to greet me as soon as he heard my car turn down our street. He loved being with us and couldn’t be close enough.
Doc has been the most loyal friend anyone could ever hope to have. If only we all had a human friend as loyal. He has sat by my side as I’ve cried, and he seemed to feel the sorrow I felt as he would lay his head on my knee or bump my hand with his nose. He has laughed with us too. Yes, he did smile! I never knew a dog could smile until I spent time with Doc. You knew when he was happy not only by his smiling eyes but by his tail! Oh, his tail! How it would hurt you if he was wagging nearby. He could put a dent in a truck with that tail! He greeted every guest the same, whether he knew them or not. A few bold barks, just in case, but as soon as they would reach the door that tail would start thumping the house and he was smiling. I swear if he could have opened the door and let them in he would have. He loved people and everyone loved Doc. We always heard comments about what a good dog he was, and everyone was right.
His most favorite thing to do of course was play ball. We have spent hours on end tossing a ball or Frisbee for that dog. He lived to have a ball. A few years ago we noticed that when we would toss the ball a few times he would not bring it back. He would go and lay down with it. It was then we realized that age was catching up with our friend. He started slowing down a bit and his morning and evening routine of surveying the outer corners of our property seemed to take longer and longer. He would very casually walk now. Content to just look at things, no longer taking off on a little game of ‘Chase the squirrel’, he would mosey around the yard then return and plop down in the grass with a heavy sigh. He had finished his patrol and all was well. He also would enjoy laying out in the evening and waiting on the rabbits to appear. When he felt they had had long enough to eat in peace, with a glance over his shoulder at me for approval, off he’d go to put them back in their place. This would go on every night all summer long. He soon grew too tired for that as well and no longer did the rabbits have to eat on guard. No, Doc was slowing down and his games and swimming trips to the farm were just things he dreamt about while he slept. His life had been spent bringing joy to a family who considered him as much a part of the family as a dog can be. He even unwrapped Christmas presents for cryin’ out loud!
So you see it isn’t easy to make the decision we will have to make in the ever-nearing future. No matter how many times I try to tell myself that he is just a dog, I know in my heart that he is not. It is for this very reason that I have come to realize that I have to give him the dignity and love he deserves. He no longer can walk and can barely stand. His days are spent lying on his pillow. Just walking across the porch is a huge undertaking and he pants and falls in bed when he finally makes it to his corner. His days of jumping for the Frisbee are over and to keep him here longer than he should be is only being selfish on my part.
No, I can’t say ‘it’s just a dog’ because it isn’t. Doc has been with us for 12 ½ years. He is the dog Paul and Samuel will remember most when they think on their childhood. He has been a fixture in our lives and to dismiss him as “just a dog” really isn’t being truthful. He is more that just a dog to us. He is Doc, and he will be forever missed and treasured in our hearts and memories.
As I looked at him tonight he looked back at me with that same solemn look he had 12 years ago; loving eyes, patiently waiting for us to make our decision. This time, it won’t be an easy decision to make.
Monday, June 9 at 6:35a.m. Doc did his last faithful deed. It was the day we had decided to make the decision. I had prayed the night before for God to just take him so we wouldn’t have to carry that burden. God was faithful and kind to our old friend. As I sat by his side rubbing his ears, Doc once again was chasing rabbits.