On the occasion of his last afternoon

While today is a noteworthy, insanely historical day in our country, I am not as elated as I wanted to be. I am sidetracked and things are a bit out of focus for me.

I had to take my old man dog to the vet to be put to sleep this afternoon. I am a bit in shock-or maybe at peace?-I am not so sure which one it is.
This dog has been my companion for almost 11 years. When I first set out to get my first I'm-in-college-and-must-exert-my-independence-by-buying-a-pet, I actually adopted a beautiful black cat. He had soft, silky fur, or so it seemed. I wouldn't know, really, because the minute I opened his cage in my apartment, he took flight, and dove behind my couch. For days, I tried to coax him out, with food, water, toys, treats. Nothing worked. I have no idea if he even went to the bathroom. I pulled the couch away from the wall, and with each inch I crawled closer to him, his hissing and spitting were amplified by several degrees.
One morning he wasn't behind the sofa. I searched high and low for him in my teeny less-than-1000-square foot apartment, and finally found him flattened under my stereo cabinet. I have no idea how he actually fit under there, but he let me know he was alive and well by smacking me in the face.
This oh-so sweet kittie left my apartment one day. I opened the door, and he darted out so quickly I actually thought twice about the possibility that I had seen a ghost. He hid in the bushes, and took off with one final hiss when I peered under the bushes.
Buh-bye, kittie.
So. Since the cat thing didn't work out quite as planned, I decided on a dog. I wanted a chocolate lab. One with green eyes. My husband, who was just my boyfriend at the time, agreed to trade a rifle scope for a chocolate lab. So we make the trip to this random person's home to pick up my papered chocolate lab. When we get there, the momma comes out with 6 large puppies trailing and stumbling behind her. No chocolate labs left. They had given away the last one by mistake. My boy was the only one left with his sisters.
I'd like to say there was some defining moment that resulted in my picking him out of all of those little girls, but there really wasn't. They were all sweet, puppy-breathed, squirmy balls of energy. They all attacked my legs. I just picked him, the only boy.
Kooter Brown is his name. No idea where the name came from (besides, duhhhh, Dukes of Hazzard-only the most awesome show of my childhood! (well, besides Full House, Punky Brewster, Transformers, and Fresh Prince)), but it stuck.
Kooter was a mess to begin with. He knocked over bowls of food and water in the apartment, so I was greeted with bits of kibble that looked like paper weights. Once he peed on my couch, ate one of my school books, and ate the highlighter. I came home to yellow highlighter on the carpet, on the baseboards, on the tile, on his tongue. It was hard to be mad at him when he yawned large and loud, with a bright yellow tongue.
He fell in the lake once, right off a small dock. He tried to climb back up the ladder. My husband had to jump in and drag him to shore.
He loved to dive in the water and go after your fishing lures. Fishing around him was a damn fiasco.
He loved to swim in my in-laws' pool. We could never get him out. He would swim laps for hours. We would literally have to drag him out and then hold onto his collar to prevent him from jumping in again.
He loved to play with tennis balls. He would chase it forever, as long as someone was throwing it. It was sorta like the nutso dog on Dr. Doolittle-"Throw the ball, throw the ball, THROWTHEBALL!!!!" And he wouldn't let you take it out of his mouth. He had to get it just so, and push it with his nose at you. This always resulted in a big ball-full of slobber.
When he was young, he loved my sister. She was a toddler at the time, and he would lie on the floor with her. He would let her poke his eyes and nose: 'EYES. NOOOOSE.' He licked her face constantly. He also dug up her sandbox, sat in her kiddie pool, and stole every ball she had.
He ate a flat of flowers belonging to my mom once. He dug up bushes in her backyard. He ate a hole in the very center of her living room carpet. I have no idea how he did that.
One time, when taking him to the vet, he jumped out of the back of the truck and took off down this little road, after a rabbit. I had to pull into the ditch, get out, and chase after him.
He also tried to jump out of the back of the truck at the Chic-fil-A drive-thru. The lady was scared shitless to have this 80 lb. black ball of energy jumping in the window at her. He actually got most of his body through the window before falling to the ground.
He had this silly thing of looking up at me with these soulful eyes, and licking my chin. Always my chin.
At some point in time, around 2 years old or so, he became less-than friendly. In his lifetime, he has bitten 7 people, including my girl (he bit her this week). He killed a kitten when we lived in Springtown. He went after cats. He went after my friends' dogs. He even went after Daisy when we first got her. He was not happy at all with her. It took a couple of weeks of growling, snarling, baring teeth, all culminating in Daisy's little head in Kooter's big mouth. After that, they were tight.
It's been difficult having a dog that does not get along with others. We've had several close calls: the rat poison situation, the time he nipped a neighbor's kid (the 2nd incident) after being provoked...I couldn't find his shot records, so he had to be quaranteened for weeks. Each time he has bitten someone, he has lucked out-they were all people who loved me, or loved him, so all was forgiven.
When my girl was born, we made the agreement that if he ever bit any of our children, we would need to get rid of him. When she started crawling, I had to get in the habit of putting him outside, because he would growl at her. I began seperating him from everyone when people came to visit, unless it was family. I had to walk him at night, for fear that we would run into another person walking their dog, and he would attack. There were several close calls in that regard. I had to teach my girl at a very young age that you don't mess with Kooter. But as she gets older, she doesn't understand. Why can't she pet him? Why can't she lie next to him on the floor and rub his belly?
I tried. I really did. I tried resocializing him with people and animals. But it didn't work. Just the other day he put his whole head through our fence at our soon-to-be neighbors' little fuzzball of a dog. And even after the very minimal bite to my girl's finger (barely broke the skin), he growled at her last night.
Last night, I slept on the couch with him. Shitty sleep, let me tell you, but I had to spoon with him one last time. He was a great spooner. I loved on him. Kissed him. Stroked his fur. Examined his paws. Ran my hands along his spine. Scratched his ears.
Today I took him for one last walk, one last chasing of the tennis ball, where amazingly, he let me take it out of his mouth. I fed him things he shouldn't be eating, like animal crackers, chicken nuggets, candy. For one minute, I thought about making him some of my favorite comfort food: pasta.
Today, I did one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life. It was just so damn hard. I felt like a traitor. For an instant, I felt the strong need to pull on his leash, escape from the confines of that small examining room, and just run away with him. But, I know that's not logical. So instead, I petted him, kissed him, let him lick my chin, and fed him dog treats. I rubbed his head and ears at the end, thanking him for being such a good friend, such a good dog, for 11 years.
It was only a matter of time before he bit again. It was only a matter of time before we found out that tumor was cancer. It was only a matter of time before I had to do this very thing that I never wanted to have to do.
I left the vet's office with his collar and leash, my face a mess. I felt like a total dumbass, like a traitor, like someone who lost my best friend. All of those things.
So, while others have been cheering about Obama, I am sitting here crying, with my remaining dog, Daisy, sitting on the couch next to me. She is whining deep in her throat. She keeps looking towards the garage for him. This will be interesting for awhile. There's a hole in both of our hearts now, that no dog can replace.
My sweet Kooter dog:


Chibi said...

Oh honey, my heart is breaking for you. :(

Don't you DARE call yourself a dumbass: Kooter was a member of your family for 11 years -- I'd be concerned if you WEREN'T upset. I know it's trite and likely of little comfort, but know that you did what was best for Kooter, even if it was the hardest thing for you to do.

*biggest, squishiest hugs*

Danielle said...

I'm so sorry. So so sorry.

I know it's hard. You know in your head you did the right thing. But your heart is breaking.

Thinking of you...

jodifur said...

I am so sorry for your loss.

Unknown said...

OMG I want to bawl! A real life Marley & Me story, truely. Time will heal the heart, and it's ok to grieve. Thank you for sharing!

Chris Spencer said...

My sympathies to you and your family.

Mary O said...

I'm so sorry. That is so, so sad. =(

CP said...

How odd that we are bound by the same experience today. Thanks for writing to express your love for Kooter so beautifully.

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking of you all day. I'm so sorry about your friend and I hope that, as time goes by, your heart will heal. Maybe then you can take your girl and let her pick a puppy just like you did all those years ago. Then she can know what its like to have such a loyal companion to spend time with!

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how the speechless, dependents end up being so important in our lives

Fiona Picklebottom said...

I'm so sorry.

Sarah said...

I'm so sorry. Dogs are parts of our family so it makes sense that this is a difficult time for you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Thank you everyone for your kind words. I do know I did the best thing for all of us, but the best is not always the easiest. By far, this was one of the most difficult things I've done. If I could just stop re-playing it in my head....

Kristie said...

My heart breaks for you, truly. I'm here if you need to talk.

a said...

The thing is, they are just such good friends. There is no other way of putting it for me. Yes, they are part of our families and yes they grow into our lives like oak roots, impossible to dig up. But they are, somehow and always, just such good friends.

I'm sitting here with my own grey muzzled man, whom--I hope--has a few more years left in him, knowing that one day, someday, we too will have to say the impossible goodbye.

TUWABVB said...

Just finally read this because of the link in today's post. I just have to say, I'm sorry. I get it. It's impossible to swallow and yes, the scene keeps playing over in your head. I love that you loved him so much and I'm happy that it never came to the point where he might have been an enemy. Hugs to you honey.