Yesterday I said goodbye to my best friend. He was 11 years old and I got to hold him at the end and tell him that it was okay and that he could let go. He was in a lot of pain and my family and I knew that it was the right decision to make but it was still probably the most painful decision that I have ever had to help make. He was a good boy all the way to the end, wagging his tail even while they put in the injection. He held on for me and even though it hurt, I am eternally thankful that I could be there with him at the end. He will be missed so so very much.
Bob is not the most common name for a dog and his naming was really more like a happy accident. My Uncle Bob used to ask us every time he came to visit whether or not we named the dog after him even though he already knew the answer. Bob was a member of the first litter of puppies by his parents Whitney and Einstein, two of our other wonderful goldens. He was the biggest puppy in the litter and apparently I saw him and immediately called him “Big Bob,” although I honestly don’t really remember doing that. The name stuck. We weren’t sure if we were going to keep a puppy from that litter and if we did, we weren’t sure which one. We almost kept another puppy but I am so glad that in the end we kept Bob.
Bob has always been the sweetest, nicest, cuddliest dog. Even though he weighed about 100lbs he thought that he was a 5lb lap dog. I can remember sitting cross-legged in the backyard and having him come running up to me to try to sit literally in my lap even though he was honestly about the same size as me. If you were standing next to him but not physically touching him he would use his nose to flip your hand onto his nose. At the end, when he could barely move, he still tried to crawl closer to me and made sure that I was always touching him because he loved to be cuddled so much.
Bob has never been much of a retriever though. He would chase his mom when she went after a tennis ball but never really cared about chasing balls himself. If you threw a ball for him he might make a half-hearted leap towards it before immediately turning around to come to you, as if to say “See! I chased the ball! Now pet me because I love you!” He liked to sit out in the backyard with me while I read and I always had to keep a hand on him or he would keep scooting over to put his paws, face, or whole body on top of my book because he was obviously way more important than any silly book that I might want to read. I will miss my reading buddy a whole lot.
Bob only got to go to the beach a few times but the times he went, he never failed to drink tons of salt water and throw up in the back seat of the car. That’s probably the real reason that we only took him a few times. My mom used to take him running every morning with Whitney, though. He loved to go for runs and go on walks. He was always so excited when the leashes got brought out. He wasn’t the most coordinated or focused runner though and managed to trip my mom a few times by getting distracted. He loved going on walks right up until the end though.
I loved to brush Bob. He had so much fur. You could literally brush him for hours and still have fur come out. Every time that I brushed him, a small dog’s worth of fur would come off. We often had fun shaping it into the largest pile possible. One time we even brought out the vacuum to see if we could vacuum the fur off of him because there was so much of it. I would always come home and see that he hadn’t been brushed in awhile, tell him that he looked like no one loved him, and then spend a bunch of time brushing out as much of the loose fur as I could. He loved being brushed because of the attention and he always looked so good right after a brushing, even if the effect only lasted for the 30 seconds before he began to shed even more fur.
A few years ago, his front right leg got really swollen and he stopped using it. We just came home one day and he was hurt. We don’t know what happened. When we took him to the vet they said that they thought that he had cancer and that due to his age, there was nothing that they could do. They gave him painkillers and told us to try to keep him comfortable and that we should bring him back when he stopped eating. They gave him about two months to live. Despite that, he never stopped eating and at the vet’s suggestion we slowly worked him off of all of the painkillers. He hopped around on three legs, sometimes using the fourth, and he always seemed like the happiest clam despite his injury. We had three good years after that, where I made the occasional joke about my dog Bob bobbing when he walked due to his special leg. Those years were borrowed time and I am so happy that we got them.
Over the years, he has begun to slow down. 11 is a lot of years for a big golden retriever like Bob but he always came out to greet me when I came home and would sit out in the sun with me. Two days ago, Victoria and I were going to go for a bike ride but her handlebars came loose and we didn’t have the tools to fix it so we decided to take Bob for a walk instead. He was so excited when I pulled out the leashes but was moving slow when we went for a walk. I knew that he looked like he didn’t feel as good as he did a month ago when I last saw him but I don’t think I realized just how much he had aged in that month. We thought about turning around at the corner because he was going slow but by the time that we got there he was taking a short cut across someone’s lawn and seemed excited to keep going. We walked slowly like we always do with him but he wanted to stop a little more than usual. My mom and Victoria encouraged me to keep going because if he stops it can take him forever to decide to keep going again.
We were just around the corner from my house when he fell. He cried out in pain and writhed on the ground trying to get up. I always make sure to walk slow with him at his pace but this one time I was walking up with my mom and Victoria trying to get him to keep following us. We all immediately ran back to him and it was clear that he wasn’t going to be walking again any time soon. His left paw, which wasn’t hurt before, had stopped working so that he couldn’t move or stand. We lifted him onto a board on a skateboard and rolled him home while doing our best not to hurt him. We gave him some of his old pain medicine hoping that it might help him even a little bit. He was breathing really hard and drooling a lot, you could tell that he wasn’t okay even though he was doing his best not to show the pain. Victoria accidentally touched his leg while trying to give him water and he almost bit her, something that he would never, ever do under normal circumstances.
I brushed as much of him as I could because I wanted him to look good if the worst had to happen, even though I didn’t really want to admit that that was the reason I was doing it. I also did it because I hadn’t had the chance to yet since I had only gotten home from Massachusetts that morning. I was devastated, I had been so excited to be able to spend three whole weeks with my best friend and on my first day it seemed like I would only be able get a few hours with him. Everyone kept trying to tell me that he would be okay, that maybe there was something that they could do to fix it at the vet, but I think I knew right away that there was going to be no fixing it. I tried to have some hope but I still felt like this was going to be my last night with my best friend.
That night I decided to sleep out in the driveway with him. I pulled out a sleeping bag and mat and laid down next to him. He took a little while to relax, maybe because he was trying to protect me and because he was really hurting, but eventually he did. He laid down next to me and put his head right by mine. I put my hand on his head and we fell asleep like that.
The next morning we went to the vet and found out that his leg was severely broken and that there wasn’t really anything that they could do for him, partially because of his age. We got all the tests done to be sure that there was nothing that they could do. At first we talked about taking him home for a few days but slowly realized that his condition was too bad and that it would be selfish and unfair to him to try to take him home. We made the decision and I looked into his eyes and watched the light go out while sobbing and repeating over and over again that I was sorry, that I loved him, and that it was okay to let go.
Part of me worries that this was my fault. That I shouldn’t have taken him on that walk. That I should have just let him sit down and rest until he wanted to go. That I wish Victoria’s bike hadn’t broken so that we wouldn’t have taken that walk. But the doctor’s think he had a degenerative disease and he was putting a lot pressure on that leg because his other one was hurt. We think that at some point, at some step, it would have happened and I was taking him out to do the thing that he loved. I know that it’s not my fault and that really this was the best way for it to happen if it had to, all of us there together to help and be with him at the end, but I still wish that I had been able to stop it.
The things that I will miss most are just the little things. I’ll miss coming home to visit and going through the gate and having him run up to meet me. I would always sit in the driveway with him when he did that and just pet him for a few minutes, and, of course, end up completely covered in fur. I’ll miss doing the same thing every time I come home from running to the grocery store or any other little outing. I always made an effort to go through the backyard instead of through the side door so that I could see him. I’ll miss cooking in the kitchen with my mom and poking my head out to say “Bob!” just to watch his head perk up from his dog bed. I’ll miss feeling bad when I would do that and he would get up and walk over to me so I would go outside to pet him for awhile. I’ll miss walking to the back of the house to see him sitting on the back porch steps, wagging his tail with his head on the door frame, looking for love. I’ll miss sitting on the floor doing work with the door open so that I could be near him while I work. I’ll miss sitting in the backyard trying to read while he is unendingly, adorably distracting.I’ll miss getting pictures and videos of him from my mom when I’m not at home because she knows that I miss him. I’ll miss having the biggest, fluffiest set of ears to listen and body to hug when I’m feeling sad. I’ll miss knowing that there is always one, amazing, wonderful being in the world who is dying to see me at every second and only wants to be loved by me just waiting in my backyard for me. I can’t believe that next time I come home he won’t come running but I can only hope that somewhere out there he is looking over my shoulder and taking care of me from afar.