They live their lives within the span of ours. Their time with us is short, but it is not insignificant in duration or effect. They rely on us solely for their well-being and we are entrusted with the care of their lives.
During the ride home from the animal shelter, our new puppy, Tango, pooped on my suede backpack. We laughed at the ingratitude of this newly adopted member of our family. A dozen years later Tango developed an intestinal problem which left him spending much of his days and nights trying to poop the smallest dollops. He wasted away to skin and bone until finally, we made the decision to put him down.
Friends would comment about how friendly and chill Tango was, in truth he was a booger-snot. Within the first few months, my wife was giving the Child a bath and Tango wanted attention. My wife kicked him out of the bathroom and so he ate the couch. He was jealous and a bit retaliatory that way. Then there was the time that he wanted to go outside while we were all busy watching a live TV show. So the dog squatted in front of the TV, looked at us and peed on the carpet.
Tango was also a trash digger. We would no sooner leave the house and he would start this routine of digging in every trash can in the house. Once after we had all gotten in the car, I had to run back in the house, and as I opened the door, Tango walked in front of me and without missing a beat dropped the trashed paper plate he had in his mouth at my feet, like it was a gift for me.
Like everyone else in the house Tango was independent and able to hang out and do his own thing. That being said, on my work-from-home days, he would always get up early and stay with me, upstairs on the couch while I worked at my desk. The rest of the week, I didn’t really exist to him, unless of course I was feeding him, getting in the refrigerator or eating dinner.
Around October of 2014, we noticed that Tango was losing weight. We took him to the vet, but there were no signs of any problems. As time went by he wasted away to skin and bone. He would eat everything in front of him,he wasn’t lethargic, we just couldn’t keep any weight on him. Then as time progressed I noticed that there were fewer and fewer of his “jewels” to clean up in the back yard.
As his conditioned worsened, he would have false sense of needing to go to the bathroom. At first, he would need to go out at about 2am. Either my wife or I would get up and let him out and then wait for him to come back in. Later he would go out more and more frequently during the night. Eventually, one of us would end up sleeping on the couch near the back door so we could let him go out as he needed to. Near the end, he would need to go in and out four or five times a night. My wife and I were trading off nights on dog duty. It was difficult.
I came home from Europe on a Thursday last June, knowing that I would be putting my dog down at 10:30am on Saturday morning. He couldn’t control his bowels anymore and was soiling everything he rested on.
Thursday night we put him outside in the back yard to sleep. He scratched at the door to come in a few times, but he we couldn’t bring him in.
On Friday night, Tango and I camped out in a tent in the back yard. He had some accidents in the tent overnight, but we cleaned things up and went back to sleep. That Saturday morning was painfully sad. I ran to the store and picked him up all his favorite foods and I made a stop at Del Taco and bought him a bacon and egg burrito for his last meal.
Being in the waiting room at the vets, with the other animals amplified the sadness. Laura and I were both sad and Tango just seemed miserable and tired from lack of consistent sleep. I just kept holding my dog in my arms, I let Laura hold him a few times, but after the administration of the sedative I only set him down for his final injection. I picked him and held him in his final moments. I swaddled his lifeless body much like I swaddled by daughter when she was a newborn; It was the only thing I could do for him. I held him and I kept holding him. Then here came a point where I just had to leave his swaddled lifeless body on the table and walk away.
The days after were filled with mixed emotions. My sister was coming into town and we were celebrating my daughter’s high school graduation. All the while there was something missing from my life. There are routines one gets into when having a pet and no longer having those routines was gutting. I continually questioned if I did the right thing. I wanted God to somehow validate my decision.
A year later, I still miss his him. I miss the exact cadence of his nails click click clicking across the tile and how when he would make exactly seven barks in succession when someone came to the door. I miss the way that he would come to the acknowledge my return from a long trip, but never more than for a few seconds. I miss how at about 8:30pm at night, he would get up walk across the floor and go crawl into my daughter’s bed and just go to sleep. I miss the eight and ten mile walks with him.
We’ve adopted a new puppy, he’s not a plug-and-play replacement, he’s a different soul, with different strengths and weaknesses; and we love him dearly.