Two weeks ago I had to do what is probably the hardest thing for me, ever, and that is say goodbye to my beloved pup, Forrest. He was the last pup from Sierra’s litter in 2001 – Wren went first, then Kahuna, then Sophie and last sweet FoFo. It’s the end of a era, in so many ways, the end of a dream and another enormous hole in my heart that will never be filled again. My babies do that to me and a dear friend recently told me, upon learning of FoFo’s death, that she thought I was courageous for continuing to have labbies when I know their life spans are so very limited, at best we can pray for 15 years, like Forrest. For some reason, God decided that dogs shouldn’t live as long as horses or sea turtles or even exotic birds – who can live as long as a human. I think I’ll ask Him about that whenever I reach heaven. I am sure there is a much bigger reason than I can comprehend in my very limited human mind but it is one of things that wracks my soul to its core. The fact is this; I am not remotely courageous but I need four legs and a fur body almost like I need oxygen. God gives all of us gifts and I guess my silly love for the animal kingdom and, in particular, dogs, is mine. If that can be called a gift, in many ways it is a burden, given the way so many animals are treated, their short life spans and humanity’s general lack of concern and compassion for them.
Dave and I always thought we would lose FoFo before Kahuna, he had so many physical problems and limitations. FoFo was probably the happiest, most responsive pup out of the litter. Dave use to come home from work after the pups were born, step outside the backdoor and yell, “Puppies!!!!!” and can you guess who was the first to arrive at his feet? You got it – FoFo! He always wanted to play and even with his limitations, he loved trying to mix it up with Sierra and Kahuna, then Kahuna and Butter, and lastly Butter and Bear. Even when that dear boy couldn’t stand for very long or push himself up without my help – he would bark at Butter and Bear – ‘Come play with me’ and when they got close with their toys, he would reach out with that big mouth and try to take their babies. Or play tug of war with a toy or bark and try to bite them (sometimes succeeding!). Dave took to calling Fo ‘Mr. Chompie’ the last few months of his life because of the snapping of those teeth and the wariness of Butter but especially Bear of his mouth. I would tuck one of Bear’s toys under Fo’s front legs and watch Bear try to gently maneuver it from him, whilst staying away from those snapping teeth. It was so funny and such a picture of FoFo’s unique and incredible spirit. Until his last day on this earth, he loved getting in the pool to cool off, drink some water and carefully swim a very small loop close by the stairs. I wish I had half of his lust for life, of not giving up or looking at his limitations but just going for it, knowing Mom was close by to help out if he needed it. And he did need my help, more and more, as the days past by. Like Sierra, then Kahuna, he trusted me for everything – for bringing his water dish to him, for feeding him twice a day – for trying everything I could to take care of his physical pain, for helping him in and out of the pool every.single.day. I didn’t mind doing any of these things because 1) the alternative was unacceptable to me and 2) you do things for those you love to help them, whether they are your fur babies or your human family. I didn’t count the cost. I knew it wouldn’t be forever, unfortunately and I was able to commit myself to his care without reservation.
If you have ever lost a dog, cat, horse or some other animal species maybe you can relate a little to the enormous pain I feel today. It’s very difficult to write this but, in some ways, it is a memorial to my boy.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple of people who played such a huge role in my life, helping me care for my pups and crying with me as they left this earth. Dr. Diane Paster – a friend and wonderful vet – took care of both Kahuna and Forrest. We started visiting her at her practice, way out in Goodyear about 4 years ago and about 1 1/2 years ago, she started coming to the house. In the last few months of FoFo’s life, she was here every week – imparting wisdom, knowledge, kindness and great wit. She is the one I looked at and asked her to tell me if I was holding on too long. I tried really hard to look at FoFo through the eyes of ‘what is best for him’ and ‘don’t let him suffer’. And I asked her to call me on it if I failed that test. That’s a tough thing for someone to do – even a vet- when you get so close to both the human and the pup.
Dr. Deborah Carey started with me on the road to alternative therapies when Sierra was diagnosed with cancer. She treated her with acupuncture and then continued coming to my home to treat Forrest and then Kahuna as well. She is a genius, a friend, another wonderful vet and such an advocate for animals. I admire her dedication to working with me in the early days to better understand what we could do to make Forrest more comfortable.
Lastly, all the good folks at #Scottsdale Ranch Animal Hospital have been incredibly supportive, kind and helpful throughout this process. I am so fortunate to have all of these wonderful folks to take care of my most precious possessions.
I try to focus on how incredibly fortunate I have been with my labs. Anything beyond 10-11 years is considered icing on the cake for a lab and all my dogs made it to 13 in reasonably good health. That Forrest had his 15 birthday while he recovered from pneumonia is amazing.
Even so……my heart still cries out for him, wishing he was with me.