By now, most of you know that Kyrie Ransoms German Shepherd Bella was recently diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer, which they fought as well as can be done. The family is devastated, but showing dignity, strength, and compassion. I was told about the situation a few weeks ago, and had several discussions with Kyrie. She is doing everything right for Bella, and she inspired the following piece. It is a work of composite fiction from my experiences, and those of other dog owners. I dedicate it to Kyrie, Bella, and everyone that has lost a dear four-legged friend.
Hi Fur-Face. I can see you looking at me from that secret place in my heart where only the most special memories live. My parents live there, and my first boyhood dog. Now, you’ve settled into that warm nest as well.
But I wish you were still here, looking up at me with that goofy, orange toy in your mouth, begging me to follow you to the field and let you run as fast as you can. Or playing “Hide the Hairbrush” on Mommy…Or rooting thru your dish, picking out the tastiest morsels and letting the other bits of kibble hit the kitchen floor. But, those simple things can only be memories now, because today I had to help you take your final journey…A Journey that came very early for someone like you…I wanted to believe that you would never take this journey…but that’s not how things work.
A few weeks ago, I noticed that you were not yourself. You seemed tired, but restless. I dismissed it as, “the humidity”. Your normal playfulness only lasted a few minutes at a time, and you stopped enjoying ball games. We visited the veterinarian that you like so much…a caring, sweet lady that has taken care of you from the start. I explained why we were visiting, and she looked into your face and she saw something that I couldn’t. I don’t know what it was, but she rubbed your nose with hers, and promised to, ” make you happy again.” I thought that was a strange diagnosis, but let it pass.
Three days later, the Doctor called me. Your tests were in, and she wanted to see us as soon as possible.
The words hit me like a person who hears that they, “have cancer”. That’s not meant as humor, as anyone who has heard those words personally knows. There is just no other suitable illustration. “It’s probable that your dog has a very aggressive cancer, which is affecting the bones of his hips, and spine.” The ride home was not something I can describe. I couldn’t look at you…but you watched me very closely as tears streamed down my face. You jumped out of your place in the back seat into the front passenger side. How you did it, I don’t know. Then, unbelievably, you smiled at me! How could you do that when the whole world has suddenly crashed around me?! Let me have my grief!!!
I had to pull into a driveway because the tears were blinding. Apparently you thought we were going to jump out and play ball or visit a friend, because you got all excited as you normally do. I was finally forced to look right into your face, confronting the future for myself. But the expression on your face was one of a giddy puppy with a new squeaky toy. “Oh Pupper…if only you knew how sick you are…” I sat there with you and my misery for almost an hour. We might still be sitting there if the homeowner hadn’t come home and needed to get into his driveway. After that, I circled the neighborhood for a while, not wanting to face my wife at home with the news from the Vet. Her reaction was predictable, and I held her while she cried. You just lay on the floor and wondered why everybody was so upset. We both heard you let out a big sigh, the same one you do every night just before bed time. It signals that you are off the clock for the day…But this time, you jumped up off the floor and ran to your crate. You had hidden a ball there earlier, and you retrieved it, bringing it to your grieving family back in the kitchen.
My wife and I agreed later that we both understood what you were saying with that ball. We both heard you. We didn’t talk about it for several days aloud, but we both distinctly understood you. ” Listen to me…” you said gently, “My life is short under the best of circumstances. Ten or 12 years is doing great…but my time left is short now. I’ll not spend it in grief. Let’s play and laugh while I can, please? You’ve been the best family I could have had, and I want your memories of me to be happy ones. You have both done your best taking care of me, I am the happiest dog I could ever be! Remember that,please!” Then you dropped the ball and waited for one of us to pick it up.
The three of us played ball for nearly an hour. You transformed, for a few precious moments, into a the eager, energetic, puppy of not so very long ago. Your eyes sparkled with delight as your pack enjoyed the time together. Then, without pre-amble, you took the ball and layed down under a tree. A cool breeze blew thru, and we sat with you enjoying a cool drink of water. We petted your head, and reminded you that are the best dog that the world has ever known.
The remainder of the evening was like a walk thru time. You were mischievous, stealing a pair of my socks and hiding them in your crate. You jumped up on the living room couch to split open the blinds and barked at something that only you could see. Then you completed your lifes’ great work and split open a bail of bathroom tissue and spread 24 rolls all over the house. And we laughed. It was 2 hours of the happiest laughter I shall ever experience in this life. You slept the whole night thru, interrupted only by the last perimeter check of the yard you would make. You did it every night of your life, and the last would be no different…
At the first sign of daylight, I woke up, knowing you would want to go out. This time, you looked at me, and I again heard you speak to me. “I can’t stand up Dad…it hurts so much. I’ve had a great life, and yesterday was the best.”
We let you stay right there on your favorite blanket. Our Vet offered to come here and relieve you of your hurt, in your home, with us close at hand. Your eyes had gone dull, and you didn’t even react to the Doctor’s ministrations. As he informed us that you would just fall asleep, your head bolted upright. For one fleeting moment of eternity, your eyes sparkled brightly, and we both heard you say, “Thank you for my life…”
In that moment, we found a grain of solace. You spent your life not worrying about the past, the future, or anything that hurt you. You took joy in living every moment, not wasting time with the negatives. We humans have not yet achieved that state of grace yet. But I know now that I’ll be in search of it until my time comes. Thank you Fur-face…that was a gift beyond price, almost free.