There is a story there, and the guilt that follows it continues to haunt me. Cody was my buddy. He was born on November 28th, 1995 at Sho-Me Golden Farms in Farmington, MO. As an active volunteer with Gateway Golden Retriever Rescue, I have often heard people talk about the health of their dogs when they came home from the place where they bought them. People seem to expect their new pups to have worms and other illnesses. People believe that they all do. That simply is not true. Most quality breeders would be appalled if even a single puppy left their facility, sick.
On Memorial Day weekend, 1995, we trekked to Farmington to interview a breeder about their golden retrievers and quickly discovered that it was us, who was being interviewed. On that day, we put down a deposit for our golden retriever. In November, a beautiful litter of golden retriever puppies were born, complete with AKC registration papers and a certified bloodline. A week later we were there for an introduction to the litter. A few weeks later, we were there to assess each puppy. Mr. Green, as he was known to the breeder, due to his length of green yarn tied around his neck like a collar, asserted himself early – pushing the other puppies aside to saunter up and nip my wife on the upper arm. We looked at several other puppies, but at 8 weeks, Mr. Green came home with us where he got the new name, Cody.
Throughout his life, Cody had to endure numerous surgeries to remove cancerous tumors, and the weeks of recovery afterward, and a 3 month run of chemotherapy. I took on the role of caretaker – looking after him, changing his bandages, cleaning the incision sites, making sure he was comfortable, and even administering his daily chemotherapy drugs. During these periods, I often slept on the floor beside him so I could check on him during the night, or listen for his tell sounds of pain or discomfort.
Cody started slowing down in late 2007. We expected to lose him by summer 2008, then by Labor Day, then by Christmas 2008. But he made it through all of those dates, and even New Year’s Day, 2009. But on January 3rd, 2009 at about 5 pm in the afternoon, he collapsed while heading for the backyard. Except for a quick jaunt outside much later, and a quick bite of dinner, he laid nearly motionless the rest of the night. It would be the first time in his 13 years that he would be unable to walk upstairs for the night. I slept on the cold vinyl floor beside him. It would be my last night to sleep beside him.
The next morning, he bounced up like nothing was wrong. He played with my wife and I, and our two rescued golden retrievers all day. He walked up the street and down the street, running past the house as if to say “not yet, I want to walk some more”. That night, he bolted up the stairs and positioned himself on the floor at the foot of the bed – his usual place. Sunday, he was a bit slower, but still very full of life. But when he refused to climb the stairs to the bedroom Sunday night, I figured he would come up later and let him stay downstairs.
Every day when I think back to that Sunday, the guilt tears me up. That night would be his last night on Earth. I should have been on that floor beside him, but I didn’t realize his time was so short. I didn’t realize that we would have to euthanize him before Monday’s sunset. On January 5th, 2009, he didn’t get up; he wouldn’t eat; he wouldn’t even eat peanut butter! By noon, he would try to get to his feet, but fall over. I would help him stand; watch him stagger to a new spot; and help him lie back down, gently. Throughout the early afternoon, with my help, he visited every one of his favorite spots. As early afternoon gave way to late afternoon, he stopped trying to get up. He was done. Except for a brief struggle to his feet as we drove him through his favorite park on the way to the vet, he would walk no more. I carried him to the truck when we left; I carried him into the vet.
#uknowulovedogs when after 6 months you can still feel guilty for not being on the floor beside him during his last night on earth.
#uknowulovedogs, when you want to rip anybody’s head off that, brushes the emotion off with “he was only a dog”
#uknowulovedogs when you miss him every day!
Note: For those of you unfamiliar with the # tag. #uknowulovedogs was a trending topic on Twitter.