A Special Thank You
My parents call me every Saturday and today was no exception. I was out walking Toby in the pouring rain. (Mobile phones are on my top five lists of best inventions.) My mother was on one extension, my dad on the other, and we just chatted about the usual progress of our lives.
I was nearing the top of the steep hill in my walk when my mom reminded my dad that there was something else to talk about. "Elizabeth..." my dad began in his Grave Voice. Nothing good comes after your parents using your full given name. I thought I was in trouble.
"On December 28, Kodiak went to dog heaven." Kodiak, our Great Dane-Labrador mix, whom I often called the Best Dog in the Whole Wide World (because he was - sorry Toby), was my first dog in life. He came into my life at a time that I needed someone who would lean against me, look at me with adoring brown eyes, and just listen. He was a beautiful, big, dumb dog and I loved him the way any kid loves her first dog, even if the kid in question was 30 years old.
When we made the decision to move to Ireland, we knew he couldn't come with us, but finding a home for an old giant breed with a few long-term health problems was always going to be a tough sell. Someone volunteered to take him and then the deal fell through. I was leaving in two weeks and didn't know what we were going to do with him. When I told my mom that we were going to have to put him to sleep if we couldn't find him a home, she immediately volunteered to take him.
I saw Kodiak at Thanksgiving and he looked much older and more frail than he had on my previous visits. His muzzle and chest were entirely grey. He had a hard time getting up and down the stairs. His back end was giving out on him and he dragged one leg. He was over 10 years old and that's practically ancient for a big dog.
I knew the day would come when I'd have to write about losing this special dog, and now that it has, I'm finding that I'm not able to do it. It's too hard - I'm just not ready yet.
But I do need to thank my parents. They provided Kodiak with a loving retirement home. My dad took him on walks and always remembered to bring a couple of plastic bags along. When my dad's knee flared up, my mom would pick up the slack, even though she's not a morning person or a dog person or an outdoors walking person.
Kodiak took several medications and every Saturday, my mother assembled his pills for the week. She made sure to buy him the brand-name Pepto-Bismal even though I was too cheap to do that for him when he lived with us. She kept him in prednisone and glucosamine-chondroitin. She was also responsible for supplying his hard-boiled eggs. (It was a happy day when she found the pre-boiled, pre-peeled eggs in the grocery store.)
They didn't have to take him in. Ever since Briton the cat (who got to 15 before getting cancer) went to Cat Heaven, they'd had a life free of the irksome responsibilities of a pet. A dog, especially an older dog, carries extra responsibilities.
But they took him in with a lot of love and they dealt with the challenges with good humour. And when it was time, they made the difficult decisions and made sure he had a safe and painless trip to Doggy Heaven. So, Mom and Dad, thank you for adopting Kodiak, providing him a first-rate retirement home, and taking care of all his needs, especially on 28 December.