We recently had to put our beloved pet, Dash, down. It was the most difficult decision we have made as a family. It has been several weeks, and none of us feel all that much better. We all have a deep feeling of longing for our canine companion for the past twelve years.
I have taken the time to think this through, and I know why this is so painful for our family.
When you bring a dog into your home, it’s like having a new baby in your family. It is dependent on you for everything. Food, shelter, play, doing business, love, pain, and learning. Those first few years are very much a parent/child relationship. The puppy looks to you for everything, and we are oh so delighted to show them the way. We had so much fun together as a family. The five of us laughing and running around. Chasing the ball that is life.
Dash was aging at a rate about seven times ours. By the end of the next few years, we were at the same stage of life, middle age. We did this together. I felt there was a mutual respect between us. We disagreed about where to poop now and then and didn’t talk for a while, but that was about it. When I went to work in the morning, he would race me to the corner as I drove to the stop sign. Regardless of the weather, it became our daily routine. I would lower the window and say “you can’t beat me.” He won every time, for a long time.
Dash helped us raise our kids and became a father figure to them. He kept the house in balance, something we wouldn’t realize existed for several more years when it became shattered. Dash knew who was hurting and allied himself with us until the pain passed. He sat by my side for a long time after my beautiful and wonderful sister, Karen, died in 2009. Her canine pet, Windsor, is Dash’s brother. He is a year older but still thriving.
Over time, Dash became older than I am. He had a huge following in the neighborhood. Everyone knew him. We put a stone out near the corner bus stop and painted “Dash’s Corner” on it. Each day Dash would escort kids to the bus. In the afternoon, he would greet the children from the neighborhood when they returned from school. They looked forward to it; he looked forward to it.
We walked and talked together. Not every day but often during the past few years. Dash looked forward to his walk, and he liked it when I spoke to him. Sometimes I would receive a call on my cell phone. He would slow down, or stop. Dash would stare at me with a look that said, “what the F are you doing?” He knew I had directed my attention elsewhere. He was right. I would end the call, and off we would go. These were precious times for me. I hope they were for him.
Over time Dash didn’t want to hike all the way out to the corner. So he did what any living, aging being would do. He found another spot, but still kept his duty. Our deck is above ground in the back of our home. There are steps to reach it. He perched himself at the top of them and had perfect sight to the corner. All day. Every day. We have an outdoor fireplace. In the colder months, we lighted it for him to stay warm. If I worked from home, we had lunch together. When noontime came, I would drive to the deli and get a sandwich. The cycle took about twenty minutes. Dash would arrive at the back door as I entered the house. I could hear his paw tap the glass before I set my bag of lunch on the counter. He knew he would get a bite or two from me. When I had soup, he liked to clean the bowl, no matter what kind it was.
Dash passed peacefully during a raging Nor’easter on January 23rd of this year. He was in his spot, with the fireplace to warm him.
For me, Dash’s purpose was peace. He had it and made it at the same time. And never by saying a word.
And that is what is so painful for me. I have lost the best friend I ever had, the one who made peace. The one who lighted my way and who never forgot me. He had more love than our family and neighborhood could consume. And he never asked for anything in return. Not once.
What a life Dash lived. He deserves to rest.
My best, Chris