So Long Old Friend

It’s mid-December in the afternoon. The skies are grey and a cold front is moving through mid-Michigan , taking the temperature from mid 50’s down to the low 40’s. The winds are blowing strong with gusts to nearly 30 mph. I’m looking out the window and waiting. I keep looking and waiting, hoping that maybe the car won’t appear in the driveway and then reminding myself to be pragmatic and it’s the right time.

My mind goes back 14 years to Christmas of 1997 and my daughter presenting me with this little golden fur ball that she had carried home inside her jacket. “Merry Christmas Dad” . . . . maybe the car won’t come

Potty training on the newspapers; walking in the field out back to do your “business”; playing in the leaves at the new house . . . . maybe the car won’t come

a retriever that only plays half fetch, never getting the bring-back part down; always getting along with the other dogs and cats that came and went in the home; chasing and burrowing your nose in the snow for the snowballs thrown your way . . . maybe the car won’t come

staring down the wild turkey that came into the yard; drinking from your water bowl with the plastic cone around your head; laying sprawled in the couch that you weren’t allowed on; driving in the pickup, your body up on the center console with your head out the sliding rear window . . . maybe the car won’t come

your fondness for chewing on plastic water bottles; sleeping beside the bed at night with your head under the bed; getting a toy or two out of the toy basket immediately after they were put away and bringing them back onto the living room rug; your face turning from golden red to white, the legs getting stiff and stairs more difficult . . . the car’s here

I watch in a surreal sort of detachment as the vet administers the sedative and then we wait ten minutes while works its way through your system . . . . I remember wondering if I changed my mind, whether it was too late; I tell myself no, it’s the right time. Then the final solution is administered and I sit with you and stroke your head and body. It doesn’t feel real. After a while the vet pronounces your heart stopped. I ask for a few minutes alone before your body is removed and I don’t know exactly what to say. I wonder if you were aware of what I was doing to you and hope you’ll forgive me. I don’t know what to say other than “so long old friend”.

The Power of the Dog
Rudyard Kipling

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie–
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart to a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find–it’s your own affair–
But … you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone–wherever it goes–for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-term loan is as bad as a long–
So why in–Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

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18 Responses to So Long Old Friend

  1. I’m sorry Dave. 🙁

  2. SDN says:

    Tried to comment but the spam filter ate it.

    I’m sorry.

  3. Davidwhitewolf says:

    So sorry for your loss. I grew up with a golden. No finer breed out there.

  4. Mom says:

    I’m very sorry for your loss. We love them so much.

  5. guffaw says:

    Been there. I am sorry for your loss.

  6. jg says:

    Lost our Snooper early this year to Cancer. Im 61 and I cried like a baby. Condolences on your loss.


    When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

    All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

    They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

    You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

  7. Sulaco says:

    Lost my black lab of 14 years last month. It hurts. God Bless

  8. DirtCrashr says:

    My deepest sympathy – our Raider still plays in my parents back yard even though it was almost thirty years ago…

  9. Scott says:

    So sorry for your loss, Dave. Great photos too. You sure had many years of fun together. That makes all three of you losing your dogs this year. It has been pretty sad here at RNS.

  10. aaron says:

    Beautiful goodbye post…my Goldens have meant more to me than 99+% of humanity ever could. I understand. Sincere condolences.

  11. Sam says:

    I’m so sorry. Our boys mean so much to us, and it’s a small price to pay for years of wonderful memories.

    Your post is beautiful.


  12. Sam says:

    I’m so sorry. Our boys mean so much to us; it’s a hard price to pay for all those years of wonderful memories, but they’re worth it.

    Your post is beautiful.


  13. Toastrider says:

    Had to let my old basset hound Fred go finally. Twelve years old, but he had gotten very sick and last weekend went into a steep decline. Hurts like a sonofabitch, but all I can offer is that it does get better.

    Here’s to our dogs, ladies and gentlemen, on this Christmas morning. May we be reunited with them on the other side of a lifetime.

  14. SDN says:

    When my Fuzzy died two years ago (that’s her as my avatar), I had a copy of this Kipling poem cremated with her.

    She did not know that she was dead,
    But, when the pang was o’er,
    Sat down to wait her Master’s tread
    Upon the Golden Floor,

    With ears full-cock and anxious eye
    Impatiently resigned;
    But ignorant that Paradise
    Did not admit her kind.

    Persons with Haloes, Harps, and Wings
    Assembled and reproved;
    Or talked to her of Heavenly things,
    But Dinah never moved.

    There was one step along the Stair
    That led to Heaven’s Gate;
    And, till she heard it, her affair
    Was–she explained–to wait.

    And she explained with flattened ear,
    Bared lip and milky tooth–
    Storming against Ithuriel’s Spear
    That only proved her truth!

    Sudden–far down the Bridge of Ghosts
    That anxious spirits clomb–
    She caught that step in all the hosts,
    And knew that he had come.

    She left them wondering what to do,
    But not a doubt had she.
    Swifter than her own squeal she flew
    Across the Glassy Sea;

    Flushing the Cherubs every where,
    And skidding as she ran,
    She refuged under Peter’s Chair
    And waited for her man.

    . . . . . . .

    There spoke a Spirit out of the press,
    ‘Said:–“Have you any here
    That saved a fool from drunkenness,
    And a coward from his fear?

    “That turned a soul from dark to day
    When other help was vain;
    That snatched it from Wanhope and made
    A cur a man again?”

    “Enter and look,” said Peter then,
    And set The Gate ajar.
    “If know aught of women and men
    I trow she is not far.”

    “Neither by virtue, speech nor art
    Nor hope of grace to win;
    But godless innocence of heart
    That never heard of sin:

    “Neither by beauty nor belief
    Nor white example shown.
    Something a wanton–more a thief–
    But–most of all–mine own.”

    “Enter and look,” said Peter then,
    “And send you well to speed;
    But, for all that I know of women and men
    Your riddle is hard to read.”

    Then flew Dinah from under the Chair,
    Into his arms she flew–
    And licked his face from chin to hair
    And Peter passed them through!

  15. Kevin Baker says:

    I lost my Black Lab on Valentine’s Day about 14 years ago. She was twelve, but was suffering from liver failure. This post brought it all back. Kipling sealed the deal. Typing through the tears is difficult.

    My condolences. Been there. I know how it hurts.

  16. Dennis says:

    There is something special about a dogs love. We lost had to have my Samoyed put down 3 years ago and I cried like a baby. It was only the second time my wife had seen my cry. We went and got another Samoyed and he turned out to have seizures and we ended up losing him a little over a month ago. Not long after we lost him I went into a near by rescue shelter and fell in love with a beautiful female Mastiff. I can’t tell you what it is about this dog, but she has the entire family wrapped around her big paws. I am so sorry for your lose.

  17. Socrates says:

    Sorry to hear of your loss. I had to put my cat down two weeks ago, and it hurts so much. You should take comfort in knowing you did the right thing, though. They shouldn’t suffer.

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