Shep was a gentle dog. Not one to growl, though he’d play the part of the badass and bark with the best of them when strangers would come up to the door or when a lady would push her baby down the street in a stroller in front of the house. Not having a mean bone in his body, he made up for that with other vices. Dude loved food. About a decade ago at Christmas he hopped up and pulled a tray of cookies off the counter, eating every one, chocolate and all. It didn’t phase his iron gut.
A couple years ago he was diagnosed with cancer. Too old to safely operate on and expect any kind of recovery, the vet felt it best to just keep an eye on it and him. Sporadic seizures, once or twice every couple months at most, would follow as he continued to grow older. But as they say, when the going gets tough, the tough just soldier and keep their mouths shut. That’s what Shep did. He reserved his whining for when somebody had some food he wanted, which was every night around suppertime, but that’s how dogs are.
Shep lost massive amounts of weight a year ago, spending the months between then and now a bundle of skin and bones. For the past few months the stairs from my parents’ garage to their home, and from their dining room to their living room, have proven to be a daunting challenge. Given enough time he could handle the four from the garage most of the time, especially with the promise of a treat ready for him at the top. Other times he’d need an assist, especially up to the living room where he’d often need to be carried by my siblings or I. There had been times where he had trouble getting up onto his feet, but he always overcame that. Today was too much for him, apparently. At some point in the middle of the night he lost the ability to stand at all, and this carried over into the day, and this became all day. After two phone conversations with my sobbing mother I went to my parents’ house after work. Ol’ Shep was upstairs on a blanket in the living room, and he lit up and started wagging his tail when he saw me, but he still couldn’t stand. I carried him and the blanket out to my dad’s car and he was off to the vet for the last time. Once there I lifted him out of the car and set him down on the ground, steadying him as he gained his balance and adrenaline took over and he was able to shakily stand on his own and walk into the pet store the vet clinic is housed in. An hour, half a jar of dog biscuits, and massive amounts of sobbing later Shep was gone. I mostly kept it together until his head went limp in my hand while I pet him with the other, at which point my face immediately melted.
The ride back to my folks’ place was in silence, save for the surround sound sniffling. A few goodbyes in the driveway and I was then driving myself home. Not much point to writing this other than venting. I’m the type of person that tends to ignore problems in the hopes that they will either go away on their own or just flat out stop existing. Even with all his troubles I still had the idea somewhere in my head that Shep would live forever. He was at least a year old when we adopted him from the Humane Society over thirteen years ago, making him a minimum of fourteen years old. By all accounts it’s a blessing to have a dog live this long, but it’s never enough time. Shep was part of our family for almost half my life, and will continue to be so beyond today.