Monday, August 17, 2009

An ode to a best friend.

Disclaimer: If you're visiting my blog for the first time, I'm really not a depressing person and I actually normally write fairly humorous posts (at least I think so and that's all that matters). They're also not usually quite this long, but I couldn't bear to cut this one down.

I am a dog person. Always have been.

After my husband and I got married and we began to look for our first house, I knew that as soon as we moved in I would go right out and get a dog. Almost as soon as the mortgage papers were signed, I began scouring the website of the Humane Society nearby looking for the perfect dog that would meet all the criteria I had laid out.

Our dog needed to be medium-sized (my husband said our dog had to be small enough that I could lift it into the car in an emergency but big enough that he wouldn't kill it if he stepped on it getting out of bed. Yes, that's my husband for you), trainable, likes to play (the dog I had as a kid never learned to fetch, something I ALWAYS wanted to do) and, most importantly, good with kids.

When I first laid eyes on Luke, a happy yellow lab, I knew he was the one. He was big and goofy and his tail never stopped wagging and his tongue was hanging out ready to give you a lick, especially when you weren't expecting it. He bounded into my life and I was smitten.

Once at home, we soon found out that although on paper Luke looked as though he had met all of the items on my list of must-haves for a dog, he was lacking a little in a few categories. We tried to bring him to dog training classes so that he could learn better manners (why our friends and family didn't ENJOY a sloppy dog jumping up on them as they came in the door is beyond me) but at the end of our second lesson, the instructors politely asked us not to return.

Apparently due to Luke's, ahem, enthusiasm, he wasn't a "good fit" for the class. Did they realize that his not-so-perfect behavior was the EXACT REASON we were in the class in the first place? We decided that we loved our dog the way he was, poor etiquette and all, and didn't try any more training.

Luke's boundless energy seemed like it would lead itself to hours of leisurely games of fetch... but alas, that was also not to be. I would throw the stick and he would watch it. I would show him where it was and he would look at me. I would put it in his mouth and bring him back to where we started and he would turn away. Still happy, just not interested.

No amount of demonstrations or treats got the idea of the game through his head. In pretty much everything, Luke just wasn't proving to be the smartest dog in the bunch. Or even as smart as an average dog. Or smarter than much of anything, really. We still loved him.

My husband's job involves some traveling. Not too much anymore, but back when we first brought Luke home, my husband traveled much more often and, being alone in our empty house frightened me at times, particularly at night, especially when it was raining or windy. I know, it's not like I'm in a horror film so I don't know what I was thinking was going to happen, but having Luke next to me made me feel a million times better. He was also there for me to take long walks with and, back in the day, we did a fair amount of jogging, too. His pure love and devotion couldn't be matched and Luke easily became my first baby.

Then I became pregnant and people warned me that my feelings for the dog would change and I even probably wouldn't want him around any more. I was shocked. What sort of horrible pet-owners were these people? My own father even asked me on the phone one day what I was going to "do with the dog." DO with him? What was he suggesting? GIVE HIM AWAY? Absurd. I said we would be just fine, thank you very much.

Big Sister E and Luke meet for the first time.

Then my first child arrived. When Big Sister E was born, not only was my entire life turned upside down, but Luke's as well. He went from being pampered and doted upon to... well, let's just say his position on the totem pole of importance around here dropped down quite a few notches. WE were barely eating and sleeping while taking care of a newborn, how could we be expected to take care of a dog, too? As life calmed down a little bit, it became easier to meet Luke's basic needs, but my heart now belonged to someone else and I couldn't seem to find the drive to care for him as much as I used to.

Big Sister E, however, loved Luke right from the start. Even though he couldn't fetch, still jumped up on everyone that came over, dragged us down the block when we walked and barked at passing leaves, he proved that he indeed is wonderful with children. It took him a little while to understand what the odd squeaky thing that we brought home from the hospital actually was, but he always showed a kindness and caring towards her that was incredible.

When Little Sister B came along, Luke wasn't really fazed. By then he was used to having a toddler climb on him and follow him around and, in general, just sometimes pay a little TOO much attention to him. He accepted our new little bundle easily and didn't even need a second sniff to know what she was. His eyes spoke volumes, however, something along the lines of ANOTHER ONE? What are you people trying to DO TO ME?

Little Sister B adores Luke and the squeaks of excitement she gives when she sees him are unparalleled.

The feeling might not be completely mutual, but he is beyond patient with her and her lack of understanding normal boundaries of personal space. I have never once not trusted Luke or worried about what he might do around either of my children.

Two weeks ago, we noticed that Luke wasn't eating his food like he usually did. By usual, I mean that sometimes you barely had the bowl put down before he was chowing down. And if you happened to ever put more in there, it would be gone in an instant. So, when we noticed that the food that was put out in the morning was still there in the afternoon, we began to be concerned. We thought (and hoped) that maybe something had happened to the bag of dog food and it was stale or had gone bad and just didn't taste right to him. We tried new food, as well as a different flavor or two of the same brand, but nothing seemed to be working.

This past Friday afternoon I brought him to the vet.

Even though deep down I knew that it wasn't going to be good news, when the vet told me it was cancer, it was like the world started to close in a little bit.

And when she brought me over to show me the x-ray of his lungs and I saw how they are completely covered in it, the rest of the world crashed down around me. The vet was very understanding as I stood there in shock and tried, unsuccessfully, to wipe the tears away.

The sadness over knowing that we are already in our last weeks together hits me at various times throughout the day and I have to try to push it out of my mind. So far we have said a little bit to Big Sister E about how Luke will be gone soon and she seems fine with it but is showing she knows that something is up by randomly saying, "Lukey okay? Lukey feel okay?"

It's all I can do to not sink down into a puddle on the floor when she does that.

Along with the sadness, I'm having a hard time overcoming massive amounts of guilt. Guilt from all of the times that Luke's needs were made to wait, or ignored completely, because I was too busy taking care of the girls. Guilt from the things that I said to him that weren't so nice when really I was just frustrated with myself or life or WHATEVER and he was there.

It's not his fault that he just isn't a smart dog, why wasn't I more understanding when he just wanted to be let outside to enjoy sitting in the sun or that he didn't mean to get his leash wrapped around the tree when we were walking or that the desire to sample a freshly-made muffin cooling on the stove is just TOO strong and he HAS TO jump up there?

My family is going to lose a member soon, the one that actually turned us from a couple into a family.

To keep my heart from fully breaking, I am already hard at work spoiling Luke to the fullest, giving him anything he wants to eat and spending a lot of time giving him extra petting and hugs. I can only hope that he understands me when I hold him close and whisper to him how much I love him and that he forgives me for all of the misgivings I made in the past. When I tell him that he's a good boy, a good dog, I want him to know that I really mean it. I really do. I love you, Luke.

Now, who wants another muffin?


Nicole @ Chic and Cheap Nursery said...

Xenia, I am sooooo sorry to hear about Luke... Loosing a pet truly is like loosing a family member! Now you know that his days with you will soon come to an end but this will allow you some time to make peace with it and spoil him rotten in his last days.

He may bot be the smartest dog but animals have instincts and he probably knows that his time might come to an end soon. And he KNOWS HOW MUCH YOU LOVE HIM AND THAT YOU ARE TRYING TO MAKE HIS LAST MOMENTS AS COMFORTABLE AS YOU CAN.

A love for animals is an amazing gift. You may have come across a lot of people that just don't like them. You gave Luke a home and a family (and an occasional stolen muffin)and for that he is grateful.

I don't know why we do this to ourselves. When we get a pet we know that odds are that we will live to see them die. Yet we are never prepared to see them go.

My heart goes out to you. Sorry about the longest comment ever!

ps. I was stopping by to let you know I have an award for you on my blog.

Molly said...

Luke sounds like the best dog ever. I still miss Emma, my German Shepard when I was a kid, and Holly, our Cocker Spaniel. They were both great dogs. I truly believe that dogs go to heaven.

Mandee said...

I'm so sorry! It is always hard when you lose a beloved pet. We have lost several pets in our family. It is so heartbreaking. I really do feel for you and your family. Your story brought tears to my eyes.

mudmama said...

:~~~( Oh please hug him for me! I completely relate! My 16 yr old Siamese kitty died two months after I brought my baby home from the hospital and I felt soo guilty for not paying more attention to him. Same thing with our dog, Scooby, who died when my little boy was two. I am sure they somehow understand and know that in our hearts we love them as much as ever!
BTW my dad's cat was diagnosed with cancer and only given a few weeks to live and is rockin' on about 7 months later. So, maaaybe you have a little more time than you think. Regardless, he knows how much you love him and I am so glad you have time now to totally spoil him and remind him how much! Hugs to you all!

Jackie said...

I am so sorry to hear this sad news!!! Don't worry, he knows how much you love him (and always have even when you were sleep deprived) - dogs are great that way :) I hope you and your girls get to enjoy him as much as you can right now!

Alexandra said...

I am so sorry to hear your sad news.

We lost our beloved Saba (12 year old chow mix) 6 months ago, when our son was just 3 months old. It was cancer in his case as well. We took him to the vet because of extremely bad breath... they said he needed a teeth cleaning... when he was put under for the teeth cleaning they found a mass in his throat. We found out it was cancer two days later... then he passed naturally 4 days after that. I was heartbroken. It all happened really really fast... which was difficult at the time. Looking back it probably made it easier.

Be sure to give Luke extra long belly rubs and all the love that you can. Thoughts and prayers are with you.

Nanny Dee said...

What a touching post and beautiful pics of your girls with Luke. I am so sorry that you've had this news. Mommy guilt is awful, but know that he was able to be so loving with your children because of all the love he had received from you! Being part of a family means sharing your time and attention with others while it also increases the love you receive -- if those pics are any indication, Luke loved being part of the family!

Big Hug!


Suzanne said...

I can't even write much as I am bawling my eyes out while my dogs are curled up on the bed with me. Bless you and Luke! I am NOT going to yell when my adorable but high energy dogs want to go for that extra walk today.

dannyscotland said...

I just read this post after reading your anniversary one. I am so sorry about your beloved dog, and when I say this, I am literally hoping my fingers are typing the words correctly, because I can't see the screen through my tears. I once had a beloved dog, too, who was more family than pet, and when he had to be put to sleep, it broke my heart so to pieces that I have not loved another dog since. I did own one other, briefly, during my first marriage. But no dog could compare to Danny, and reading your post brought all those feelings back. Dogs aren't just pets, they are our family, and I just wanted, just had to tell you how sorry I truly am for this.