Tuesday, March 21, 2006 - the first day of Spring - was one of the most difficult and painful days of my life. On that day at 8:20 AM, I had to say goodbye to my dear friend and companion, Sterling. As I cradled his head in my arms and whispered in his ear "Its ok, boy", the Vet injected a strong anesthetic into the vein in his left foreleg. His head grew heavy in my arms as he drifted off. Ten seconds later the Vet, holding a Stethoscope to Sterlings chest, said softly, "He's gone."
Even though my heart still aches with the guilt and the loss, logic and compassion tells me we did the right thing. His eyesight was almost completely gone, and he sometimes got stuck in corners. Watching him prepare to lay down made it painfully obvious how badly his joints hurt. He would seldom go out into the yard any longer, I think for fear he would not be able to find his way back to the porch, so he 'did his business' on the sidewalk just a few feet from the porch steps. Back in January, when my wife said that we needed to see about putting him to sleep, I thought he was not that bad off. We heard about a young bulldog pup (Petunia) that needed a home, so we took her in. I hoped that having an active dog around would perk him up some, and it did for a while. Then he began to have 'accidents' in the house. He had had a couple of accidents before, but that was because he had been left inside for too long when we had to go out somewhere and could not take him with us. Those times he actually seemed to be embarrassed by what he had done. This time it was different, though. He seemed to not even realize he needed to relieve himself. It just 'happened' as he lay sleeping on the floor by my desk. He was eating less too. I noticed this past weekend that he only ate about half of his food. Petunia was eating the rest. There was no longer any denying it. I knew it had to be done and on Monday I made one of the most difficult phone calls of my life. The receptionist asked if we wanted to be present. I honestly didn't know, I've never had to do this before, so I asked my wife. With no hesitation she said "Yes, it would be cruel not to". Bless her heart, she was so right. Sometimes it amazes me how she is so wise about exactly the things I seem to be ignorant of. So I am at least comforted by the thought that the last thing he felt was my arms around his neck and my words of comfort in his ear. He was my friend and he deserved that much, no matter how painful it was for me.
I am also comforted by the many fond memories of Sterling, moments forever frozen in time thanks to my wonderful wife and her digital camera:
Find the Cookie!
Is it Nap Time Yet?
The Things I do for a Cookie!
Sterlings first christmas with us. He got his own present, a rawhide package filled with rawhide bones.