It has taken me a couple of days to process the fact that he is indeed gone, that sixteen in dog years is more like a century to humans and that his poor little body just deteriorated, obliterating his puppy spirit in the process. I watched and waited, hoping for a sign that it was time, that I hadn’t selfishly prolonged his life just to have him in mine. And as he has for so very long, he let me know what he wanted. And with a heavy heart, I obliged him.
His death was peaceful thanks to the loving care of a mobile vet, a friend of my daughter-in-law, who came immediately. We sat on the kitchen floor, and I held him, wrapped in his favorite blanket as I offered him a slice of bologna, his favorite, which he surprisingly ate with gusto. And he didn’t flinch at the injection as he just drifted off to sleep, his breathing slowed until it was no more. As I kissed him goodbye, thanking him for so many years of love and companionship, I knew that I had done the right thing for him, having eased his suffering and pain. It was the last gift I could give him.
And so, I have spent the moments which have followed, thinking back on his life, his days upon this planet. I am often reminded that because dogs are with us for a brief time, they must pack a lot in their shortened lifetime. And he did. He was tiny when I got him, a little ball of fur, who could fit into the palm of my hand. The day after he became mine, I sneaked him off to school on a staff development day, and he quietly slept in my lap as I sat through one boring faculty meeting after another, a memory that has remained with me after all this time. As the runt of the litter, he somehow grew a heart that was a little bigger, a little braver. He would set off in the woods, exploring with wild abandon, completely unaware that he was small, compared to many of the critters that lurked on our property. Because he was a foo foo white dog, he often returned home covered in mud, dragging sticks behind him, a look of guilt on his dirty face, hating the bath which followed, the price he paid for his wild adventures. He could run faster than a four wheeler and knew all the shortcuts, taking great delight in the race, beating the rider in the family to his destination. Proudly, he would stand on the front porch, surveying the land, his protective instinct piqued, and I often worried that he would tie into something he couldn't handle, thinking he was saving us. But in spite of his bold spirit, at the end of the day, he was simply my fur baby, who cuddled with me, sighing with contentment as he drifted off to sleep.
I will miss his greeting when I return home, whether it was an absence of ten minutes or ten days. He never failed to make me feel that I was most important in his world. And on difficult days, when people and circumstances were disappointing for me, he was there to comfort me, to assure me that tomorrow would come, washing away the pain of today.
There are lovely platitudes, which pay homage to the loving nature of a dog. And I could quote many of them here, because they are true. Instead, I will simply say that I have always thought that dogs find the people who need them, when the time is right, often filling a void a person didn’t even know they had. Boudreaux did that for me. They come into our lives, teaching us about love and loyalty and trust. And when they depart, they teach us about grief and loss, the toll exacted for that love. There is something about a great dog that stays with us forever. And that is part of their magic as they leave behind quite a legacy.