No Sabbath Sunday post today. This afternoon, I went with my mother and sister to take our dog, Duke, to be put to sleep.
What started off as a not-so-good weekend with the rescheduled retreat turned into one of the worst few days I've had in a long time. Saturday morning we found out that Duke had an untreatable form of cancer. Simply removing the tumor would only cause the cancer to spread faster.
We brought him home to be with the family for just one more day. Doped up on anti-inflammatory pills, Duke rested comfortably on the towel covered couches. You see, we thought his incessant licking was to tell us that hey, these glands need to be drained. It turns out that it was the tumor inside his hind-end, that caused him to lick incessantly, trying to make the pain go away. When he started bleeding all over anything he sat on, we knew that this wasn't just an ordinary thing.
He was treated like a king. Then again, he always was. We loved on him, fed him an extra slice of cheese with his pills, took pictures with him. You couldn't really tell that he was sick. This morning he went outside and did his usual patrol around the yard. You see, he has always protected my family from scary rabbits and skunks, the mailman and UPS guy, and anyone who drives a white pickup truck.
I'm going to miss that way he looks like a seal when he throws his head back to "talk." I'm going to miss his unique odor...no dog had or will ever have his characteristic earthy/dirt/mountain man dog aroma. I can still smell him on my hands and sweater from this afternoon.
I'm going to miss his gruffs and little grunts when he wants to go outside or play with me on the couch. I'm going to miss his helter-skelter run across the tiled floor because he hates walking on tile. I miss his rough and calloused paws scratching my arms, his deep and playful brown eyes, his bad case of dog breath.
I miss playing with him in the yard, squishing my toes in the grass while he gallops around me in circles. I miss waking him up when he dreams so vividly that he shakes the bed while he catches those bunnies in his sleep. I miss his bark and subsequent howl when I pull up in the driveway, the vigorous shaking of his tail when he sees us coming.
My Grandpa found Duke while he was hunting in the mountains. Duke, ever the shy but curious boy, followed Grandpa around. He ate Spam over the fire with him, and then jumped in the truck when Grandpa left. So he came home to live with us. At Grandpa and Grandma's house, he was able to roam around the archery range and play in the lake. He loved running after the four-wheelers and coming into the shop to visit with people. He also loved to play in the cow pond and come back from his daily romp caked in Tennessee red clay.
When my family got our own house, Duke came along with our cat Tinkerbell. For awhile it was just the two of them, and then we added to our menagerie. He was still the Alpha but he was a good big brother. Animals aren't just pets in my house, they are legitimate members of the family. Duke was like the big brother to not only me but my sisters and the other animals as well.
Taking a pet to the clinic for euthanasia is a first for any of us in my family of five. We've had pets before, but we always moved too far away to take them with us so they stayed with others, or they ran away from home and never returned.
Today was so hard. We waited for a long time to be admitted to a room. We sat on the floor with him when the vet came in. We brought his brother Rocky along. I held Duke's paw and the others rubbed his head and belly while the vet administered the drugs. Duke left this world with a smile on his face and dirt between his toes. I hugged and kissed his body goodbye, knowing that he was already running around up in Heaven with Mama Dog.
If you're going to say that animals don't go to Heaven, please don't bother saying that. I know otherwise. God sent my family an angel named Duke, and He called him home today. A pure and good spirit such as Duke's was a blessing for the past 10 years. I am thankful for the time we had with him.
I love you Duke. Thanks for being my dog and my friend. May your memory be eternal.