We have always striven to keep Charlie’s page a refuge from the negative crap that permeates the interweb, but sometimes life intervenes. I have a brother from a different mother who is looking down the barrel of the gun we as pet parents must all eventually face: that last trip to the vet.
Not to make this about me, but my experience is all I have to relate to. My first dog after mom and I set up housekeeping was Uki, an American Eskimo. Even though all three of us shared the same mobile home, we weren’t sure for some time who’s dog he would ultimately become, as dogs pick us, we don’t pick them.
I’ll never forget the night I was “picked”; we were on our way back from a camping trip, and I stopped at a Popeye’s Chicken for some road grub before making the last push towards home. I was in the drive-through, the Ukester was in my lap, and I remember him looking up; our eyes locked, and something “clicked” in my brain and connection was made that lasted for the next sixteen years. From that day on, there was never any doubt as to who belonged to whom.
When mom started having kids, (her decision, I had nothing to do with it), the first thing we did when bringing first Zach, then Alex, home from the hospital, was to lay them in the floor and let Uki get his sniff on. That way they were never viewed as a threat to his position, and in return, the kids experienced canine interaction at the earliest possible age.
When the day came finally came to make that final trip to the vet, I did what we all do: I procrastinated. He began to fail, and just as I would decide that it was time to do the unthinkable, Uki would have a couple of good days, and I would feel like a total douchebag for being so hasty. Then another turn for the worst, and another, until there was no denying it; it had to be done.
As I knew that I would probably be a blubbering waste case, I had mom schedule and pay for the procedure over the phone days in advance, with instructions that I would be coming and going through the back door of the clinic; I would NOT be going through a lobby full of people with their pets.
And wouldn’t you know it, when that day came, the Wonder Dog was having a one of those “good” days. But there was no backing out, as I knew that it wasn’t going to get any better, that “it’s always too soon until it’s too late”. We shared a cheeseburger and a chocolate shake, and then headed west.
I’ve never driven more slowly in my life.
When the needle hit the vein, Uki looked at me; I mean, really looked at me, into my soul. It was the exact same look that he had given me all those years before, sitting in the drive-through at the Popeye’s in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The dog was gone, but the connection remains to this day. As difficult as it was at the time, I wouldn’t trade that experience for any amount of money, as it was a parting gift from a special dog, ultimately loyal to his last breath, and I owed him the same loyalty.
I buried him directly outside of the front door of the Casa, as that’s where he would have wanted to be, as close to me as he could get, and his marker is still there today.
This was at the same time that Johnny Cash released the last song he ever recorded, “Hurt”, on the album “The Man Comes Around”. That album is one of turning points of my life, as to this very moment, I can’t hear it without thinking of that day. But not just the sad parts; the last song on the album is a jazzy number, “We’ll Meet Again”, and I do believe that, and so should you; as long as a dog or man’s stories are remembered, he is immortal.
we be of one blood, ye and I.