I started writing these thoughts to you on Thursday, August 26, 2010 — less than 24 hours before mom, sis, and I put you to sleep.
It’s been nine months since your 17-year-old body breathed its last breath and your soul went wherever doggie souls go. I feel that now is as good a time as any to assemble my eulogy of sorts and combine my memories with some photos, links, and a video all about you. It’s not a complete story about you, but it’s all from me. Maybe other people reading this will learn a little bit about you and what you meant to me.
Before driving back to the house where I grew up and where you spent your life, I stopped and sat at a picnic table atop Chicatawbut Hill, across the mountain road from the dirt path we used to walk on when you were 9. Do you remember climbing those rocks and boulders with your little paws?
You didn’t know about the long leather leash yet, or even a choke collar, so we walked with a shorter canvas leash. I carried you some of the way, across a stream and up a narrow pass. Do you remember the bigger dogs — and how some ignored you when you barked at them, but others barked back?
You marked your territory wherever you want, lifting your hind leg by tree trunks, telephone poles, and random patches of grass.
We walked every fall in the expanse of forest behind the Bradley Estate, usually on the second day of Rosh Hoshanah so I could experience walking in God’s beauty instead of sitting in a temple pew.
Listening to the chirps of birds and seeing the movement of squirrels were among the most exhilarating moments of your outdoor life.
Wherever we walked, we rarely asked you if you wanted to go for a walk. You understood that 4-letter word and bounced at its utterance. Did you ever realize what we meant when we spelled out W-A-L-K to surprise you?
Remember the car rides? You always thought you were going to the vet, so you shook and shivered your butt in distaste. Once you realized the car went in a different direction, you only wanted to stick your head in front of the car’s AC vents and out the window. I never let you stick your head out far.
I need to confess something before continuing, Brady.
I didn’t like you when I first met you. It was my first college semester break during the winter of 1993, when mom, dad, and sis introduced you to me.
I thought they adopted you into the family to replace me.
I remember getting angry and sad and stomped to my bedroom.
Curious, you followed me, jumped on my bed, and licked my tears.
I never forgot that day.
When I moved home from college in 1999, and stayed there every day through 2003, we spent a lot of time together. Whenever I came home, I saw your silhouette through the drapes of the window and then your head peeked through. You smiled when you recognized my car.
Do you remember licking ice cubes on hot summer days as you lay on the carpet under the sun’s rays?
And, how about the organic carob chip cookies? Despite purchasing them at the pet store, I remember reading the ingredients and, to Mom’s horror watching on, we both ate halves of the same cookie. You ate it out of my hanging lips!
There were many toys in the house — of every size, shape, and noise. One of your favorites, I’d like to think, included the ginormous orange plush toy in the shape of a bone I once bought you for a birthday. Mom thought it was too big for you, but you loved it — dragging it around, trying to make it squeak. You also loved your blue ball very much.
Do you remember my throwing tennis balls down the hall?
Do you remember running after them, 20, 25 times in a row? You ran fast and made it a fight to drop it!
As the years progressed and you got older and experienced dementia, you squeaked the bone less. You gave up licking ice cubes. You stopped chasing balls. You didn’t want to walk. You wouldn’t let me stroke your chin. You snarled and prevented me from rubbing your belly.
You moped. You seemingly forgot how to bark. You didn’t remember how to tell us you needed to pee, so you lifted your leg and went on the carpet, on the bed, wherever you were.
Your senior years were joyous but — with sis living four hours away and I an hour away — your sanctity of life became too much. Mom kept calling and emailing us about your incidents and accidents. The days turned into months and the years passed until your eyes told the world that you lost the will to continue.
Sis and I wanted Mom to make the final decision as she was your best friend after Dad died in 1995.
We visited now and then but Mom was at your side wherever you went and whatever you said. When she told us that it was time, we were ready to come home and I began writing a condensed form of this blog post.
I spontaneously recorded this video the night before we said goodbye.
In the days after we put you to sleep, I remember scores of Facebook comments from people who could relate to family dog deaths. One comment in particular was from someone I never met but who occasionally comments on this blog. His name is John Soares and he pointed me to a similar blog post he wrote about the death of Molly, his golden retriever.
One of the comments to John came from Allen Maxfield who suggested dog owners read a book called, “Merle’s Door.” I borrowed it from the library network and read it over the course of a week. I continue to mention the book to people. Check out the Amazon review and make up your own mind.
John later told me he waited several months to share the piece with the world, when he was ready to do it.
That’s what I am doing here.
You lived 17 years, Brady. That’s more than a lifetime for most dogs, especially your cockapoo breed.
I don’t have many pictures of your senior years for the memories are, well, not that memorable. A photo from 2001 evokes your spirit and character that I fondly remember from your good younger days.
This blog post was in draft mode for the better part of six months. It was never ready to share with the world. It may still need some edits but there’s no better time than the present, so here you go.
I dotted my i’s, crossed my t’s, and cried in the process.
Writing can be very therapeutic, don’t you agree?