We lost a member of our family last Friday, just four days before his 10th birthday. One of our beloved Golden Retrievers, Gabe, is no longer with us.
Gabe was the older of our two Golden Retrievers and full of life.
He ran in front of one of our cars last Thursday evening in our driveway, welcoming us home with gusto as he and our other two dogs always do.
There were frantic minutes of trying to assess his condition. Could we get him to our vet's before they went home?
Gabe could sit up, but was in too much pain to move.
Four of us gently lifted him into the back of our SUV.
We learned at our vet's that the initial examination and x-rays revealed he had a broken pelvis and his tail was severely damaged.
At first, we believed his injuries were not life-threatening and that he would recover, as we left him in the care of our vet for the night. He might lose his tail, and certainly be in recovery mode for several weeks.
Although still in pain, his face revealed his gentle, happy nature as we said “See you tomorrow, buddy.”
A conversation with our vet Friday morning indicated that our best, and only, option was to let Gabe go.
More x-rays and an in-depth examination revealed far more damage than we initially understood.
Not only was his pelvis broken, but his spinal column was severed at his pelvis. The surgeries required to repair the damage would be extensive, and the likelihood of even a partial recovery and living without constant pain was near zero.
In the moment, the most difficult of decisions. A balance between our love for Gabe and desperately wanting him to be with us.
My wife and I called our boys, who are in college, to let them know what was happening. Our calls were difficult, halting conversations as we all fought back tears.
We visited Gabe for one last time at our vet's. He was heavily sedated, breathing slow, and just barely conscious as we said our goodbyes, rubbed his ears and repeatedly whispered how much we loved him.
Our daughter was at school during all of the activity on Friday. I was outside waiting for her bus, when I received this text:
Lia had found out when one of her brothers posted Gabe's picture on Instagram with the caption:
“Gonna miss you big dog, everything about you, even your stubbornness, unwillingness to bring the ball back, and waking me up every morning with my sock in your mouth. I wish more than anything that I could have been there to say goodbye and give you a belly rub one last time. Rest In Peace Gabe, you were a dog like none other and I'll miss you every day.”
A moment later, her bus arrived, and we stood in our driveway hugging, sobbing together for at least 10 minutes.
He and Lia comforted each other on our living room floor for a long time.
Later Friday evening, Lia posted her own comments on Instagram:
“I'm going to miss you so much big dog. Even though I wasn't there to say goodbye. I'm gonna miss when you would get a bone at the farmers market and do the death growl not letting anyone near that bone. Or when I would throw you a tennis ball, and you of course, were stubborn and not give it back. Oh, how I wish I could've commented on your stylish crimped ears one last time. Rest In Peace Gabe. You were one heck of a dog.”
Friday was a hard day.
If you're an animal lover, you've had to say goodbye to a beloved pet. This certainly wasn't our first time, nor was it the first time to make the “decision.”
It all happened so irrevocably fast.
Wednesday evening, Gabe had been chasing balls in our backyard. He wasn't bringing them back as usual. Thursday, he enjoyed being outside in the sun all day. When I arrived home in the afternoon, he greeted me with a stick in his mouth and his happy “woo-woo-woo.” His tail wagging so hard, his whole body moved to its rhythm.
Friday, Gabe was gone.
Even though we have our two other dogs, Houser and Hunter and several cats, our house seems empty.
I encourage you to hug your dog, your cat or whatever pets you have today. Throw a ball, give them some catnip; whatever makes them happy. Life is short, and theirs is even shorter.
Enjoy and cherish every fleeting moment.